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TALES OF COURAGE: A horrific crash shattered my basketball dreams

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By DIANA MUTHEU
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Kennedy Oyando,35,reaped rich rewards from his basketball talent throughout his childhood and his star was on the rise when tragedy struck.

From the time he was in high school at Shimo la Tewa Boys, through to his university years at Makerere , he was on full scholarships courtesy of his exceptional basketball skills.

Kennedy began playing basketball at the age of seven at the Kenya Ports Authority Youth Academy. He continued to play well into his teen years and by the time he was completing Form Four, he was an undisputed basketball champion in the entire coast region.

When he moved to Uganda for his A levels, he played for the Eagles’ Nest, Falcon, Miracle and Najjah basketball clubs as a lead player. He had a promising career in professional basketball.

Unfortunately, his basketball aspiration was cut short by a traumatising road accident that happened in 2006.

Kennedy had just come from basketball practice and decided to board a motorcycle. As they approached a junction, an over speeding truck appeared from nowhere and ran over them.

“The motorbike driver died instantly. My ankles were crashed and I spent 16 months in Mulago hospital, Uganda,” he narrates.

Prior to the accident, Kennedy had applied for a visa to Canada with the hope of playing for one of the basketball clubs there.

The anguish of crushed dreams weighed down on him heavily. He also had to shoulder a hefty bill of about Sh400,000 to cater for his treatment.

Kennedy spent days on end lying on the hospital bills as feelings of anger and helplessness washed over him.

The emotional turmoil and frustration made him quite resentful and he would often hurl insults at the nurses who attended to him at the hospital. He was in a dark hole of hopelessness. He also lost his scholarship at Makerere University since he couldn’t play for the club that had sponsored his education.

“I felt like a loser. I was traumatised and lived in denial for a very long time.”

Once he recovered, his parents urged him to come back home where he would have adequate rest and recuperate fully before going back to the court.

He heeded their advice, packed his bags and returned to Kenya.

“I could not play basketball anymore but my love for the sport did not fade away. After meditating for a while on what to do next, I decided to train other players and nurture their talent in the sport.”

Kennedy began coaching young basketball players from around June 2007. He started with the boys’ basketball team at Shimba Hills High School in Kwale County.

“The boys’ team did well and managed to be number five in the national competitions. I later moved to Mbaraki Girls High School in Mombasa. I introduced basketball to the school, trained the players who managed to clinch position two in their very first competition at the regional level.”

In 2009, Kennedy, formed his first basketball club known as Gorofani Raptures that comprised of players aged below 20.

During their first Match in Mombasa Basketball League Associations (MBLA), it emerged position three beating 13 other teams that competed in the match. Once again, things were looking up as his career in the sport took a new dimension from a champion player to an award winning basketball coach.

In 2013, Kennedy registered a foundation known as Sports for Education, Entertainment and Development (SEED). This was move was prompted by his desire to give back to the community by nurturing young talents in the field of sports.

Two of his friends joined him in the noble cause and netted sponsors who donated jerseys, balls, cones, bibs and other materials needed by the players.

In addition to nurturing basketball talents, SEED foundation also engages in personal development of the young players and where need arise, sponsors their education.

Since its inception, the foundation has helped 100 students pursue their secondary education and also explore their talent in basketball.

“The students are chosen from various counties in the country. We have managed to provide full scholarship for 80 students. Also, through the programmes children from other countries like Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi have benefitted,” the coach says adding that 18 players were fetched from refugee camps like Kakuma, educated and trained to be professional players.”

“I work closely with coaches in those countries and we have synchronised the programme to be one. We want to help the less fortunate in the society and also inculcate good morals and help young talents get education.”

In 2017, Kennedy, popularly known as coach, formed his second basketball club, Weka Weka warriors which hit the ground running by managing to scoop position 9 out of 22 in the MBLA games in their very first game.

“We are awaiting play-offs starting September 22 which will be happening at KPA gymnasium, Makande,” Kennedy says enthusiastically.

In 2017, a talent scout from USA attended the regional match played by St Georges basketball team at Kenyatta high school, Taita-Taveta and awarded scholarships to four players in the team.

“Currently, six scouts, three from Europe, two from USA and one from Canada are willing to support some of our players.”

CHALLENGES
“Financial constraints are among the major challenge we are facing. We are helping the youth to shun away from bad habits. Both the county and national governments should support us. They should also believe in us because people from other countries are doing so,” points out Kennedy.

Kennedy says that the accident was an opportunity, a closed door that opened a window for many young basketball players.

“It was God’s plan. Maybe I could not have achieved what I have achieved now. We hope to start sports clinic and also start training players as early as four years. The earlier they start training, the better they become.”



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