• As the world and the country battles the pandemic, Genga said things are looking grim now but remained optimistic all will return to normal with the sporting activities hitting the pitches once again.
•And as if coaching the two sides is not enough, Genga, a lecturer at the same university plays for KBF Division One side Blazers.
When Eugene Kalman Genga guided University of Nairobi ‘Terrorists’ back to the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) Premier League last year, he knew the 2020 season would be very demanding for him as a coach.
Other than coaching the varsity side, Genga, a doctor by profession, also handles Nairobi School in the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) games. He is an alma mater at both institutions.
And as if coaching the two sides is not enough, Genga, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, plays for KBF Division One side Blazers. How he handles all these responsibilities considering his nature of work is baffling.
He was already looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead by planning Terrorists’ raid on some of the league’s top teams when action tipped off in March. However, all this never came to be since the season never took off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with The Star after beating perennial rivals Kenyatta University ‘Pirates’ for the Division One crown last year, Genga admitted he cherished the team’s return to the top tier and was looking forward to the season.
The trainings had started both at the university grounds and along the Waiyaki Way, where the high school team were preparing for Nairobi County games that had started a week earlier.
But a week before ‘Terrorists’ faced off against reigning national champions Ulinzi Warriors in their much-awaited Premier League return, the first Covid-19 case was announced and everything changed.
“We always seem to face the soldiers in our opening matches. We were prepared for them because it would have been a good platform for us to learn what lay ahead for us in the league," says Genga.
It was inevitable then that Genga had to shift his attention and focus on more serious global matter. There was going to be no time for basketball, at least for now.
As the world and the country battles the pandemic, Genga said things are looking grim now but remained optimistic all will return to normal with the sporting activities hitting the pitches once again.
After years on the court playing for the university team and eight-time national champions Co-operative Bank of Kenya, Genga suffered a knee injury and pondered over a decision to keep playing or retire from the game altogether.
“I loved the game and still wanted to make my contributions. After my accomplishments, I decided to turn to coaching after some consultations here and there,” he reflects.
The man, who convinced him to stay on as a coach, was Stanbic Bank tactician Radhi Ndalu, his team-mate at Baptist Church. He insisted the best starting point was at high school level.
“My first discussion with Genga about coaching came when he was at Co-op bank, where his work and school obligations had become a bit too hectic for him. I was then coaching Upper Hill School,” Ndalu says.
“Eugene had a very good understanding of the game. So when he spoke of stepping away from playing, I suggested he tries coaching at school level. Reason being players there lacked basic skills to help improve their game.”
He added: “His character as a person and as a player made him perfect for high school. His patience meant he would take time to start teaching young players from scratch. He has turned both sides into very good teams.”
His high moments as coach, he says, remains beating Egypt to third-place during the Africa University Games in Nairobi in 2015. The other is helping Terrorists win Division One and gaining promotion to the Premiership.
“That feat remained special until two years ago when they were fighting relegation. The match that stood out was Game Three against Strathmore University, where they rallied from 22 points deficit late in the game to win the tie in overtime,” he says.
And at Nairobi School, he finally broke the jinx after many years of underachieving, leading the school to the district championships and qualifying for their first regional finals in 2018. Last year, they finished fourth.
Genga says his joy as a coach is seeing improvement as a person in terms of character and skills on the court. So how does he handle his three activities besides his day-to-day duties as a doctor ?
He is off to work at 5.30am depending on the workload at hand. Between 6am and 8am, he is in the wards attending to admitted patients. After 8am until 3pm he conducts lessons at the university and attend to the sick at the outpatient clinic before starting life as a sportsman.
Between January and March, he beats the afternoon traffic to Nairobi School to train the boys. He does this at least three days a week at times four if possible and during weekends when there are no classes.
“When we have games over the weekend, I sort everything by Thursday. It has gone well except on one occasion when I reported late for a game during Mangu High School Open tournament in Thika,” he recalls.
The activities are usually worse during Term One games because one has to cope with the scorching sun and be on the court the whole weekend. In the second and third terms, he visits once in a while since there is not much to be done.
The Terrorists enjoy his time between March and November. Their session starts at 4.30pm and end at 7.30pm. He dedicates between two and three days a week to training.
“Being a consultant, it is a bit easy if you manage the time well,” he adds with a chuckle.
“It also keeps me in good shape. How do you tell your patients not to be too heavy when you are over weight?" he quips.
Genga stays and works not far away from the University of Nairobi main campus and so it's not demanding, shuttling between the two venues.
“Since I work in Upper Hill and my dad stays within the institution, I go to his house change and report to the courts where I start my coaching duties. At times, I train with them since they are younger and faster,” he says.
After the sessions, Genga drives to Nairobi International School (NIS) where he starts another activity with Blazers, a self-supporting team that plays in the KBF Division One.
So why does Genga, a consultant physician and rheumatologist do all this? How does he manage and why doesn’t he attend to his patients, make his money and relax?
“I like sports. It has played a really big role in my life. I value it and want to pass it to the boys. It is more sacrifice, time management and blessing from God that I have this opportunity to coach,” he quips.
Genga was born in 1982 in Nairobi to professor Riewa Genga and late professor Florence Genga. He went to Nairobi Primary in 1988 before joining Nairobi School in Form Two in 1997.
He proceeded to University of Nairobi Medical School between 2002 and 2007 and did his Masters at the same university between (2009-2013). He went for fellowship in Rheumatology in India in 2015 and Liverpool in 2016.
He said he started coaching the varsity team in 2015 when he was approached by one of the players, Dr. Hillary Kubai, who informed him that things were bad and that they needed his help.
“It is ironic I ended up in rheumatology especially after my sporting days and it deals a lot with musculoskeletal health,” he observes.
All but one of his siblings are basketballers. Rodney Genga played for UoN before moving to South Africa, where he was joined by Yuval Genga. Sheryl Genga was at Buru Buru Girls and Chloe Genga at Moi Nairobi Girls. They have all have graduated.
Last born Pinckie Genga, is a student at University of Nairobi and plays for campus team ‘Dynamites’. Of the seven children, only Shirley is not much into sports.
“My dad is a strict academician who didn’t want me to play basketball in the beginning. Actually, it was my mum who would pretend not to want me to play, yet buy me playing kit and gear without him knowing. She did sports in her younger days,” he observes.
Genga,37, wedded Wendy Okaka in December last year. He says:“ She is very understanding, my pillar and I have found ways of creating time for her also.”
His basketball journey started at Nairobi school. The school fondly known as “Patch” is much feared in rugby circles having produced many great players some of whom donned national team colours.
“Training was tough,” he revisits. “I would fall asleep during night preps and besides, I could not get boots my size to use. At the times, I wore size 13 while most shoes were up to size 11. Eventually, I dropped the sport.”
As he waited to join university after completing high school, he played at Parklands Baptist Church where he was guided by Robinson Owira among others.
“We participated in various church tournaments but since I needed a new challenge, I joined Nairobi Pentecostal Church team that played in Nairobi league at that time,” he reveals.
When Genga joined campus in 2002 to study medicine, all he knew was that he wanted to play for was the University of Nairobi team. By that time, most of the old guards had left the team. They were a seven-man team.
Former KCB Lions and Posta forward Samuel Mogeshi ushered him into the team at a time they were undergoing a transition after Bogonko Bosire, Abel Kimondo, William Aluku and Alex Nyapiedho had graduated.
“The first season was tough as we were in Division One with lots of rookies adjusting to KBF standards and I was finding a way to juggle between basketball and books. At one time, I thought of quitting the game but luckily, Andrew Owuor came to my rescue,” he says.
“Owuor, who was ahead of me and was also doing medicine sat me down, gave me tips and reassured me that if I remained focused and planned my time well, it is possible to play and study.”
Mogeshi together with Mutwiri Kiogora helped him to be a good player by being hard on him. “He never let anyone down. He was not the fastest but was good under the rim and his arrival made Terrorists a dangerous team,” said Mogeshi.
Mogeshi said Genga's biggest achievement came in 2004 when he helped the team get promotion to the Premier League. He went on to play for Kenya and won championships with Co-op both nationally and regionally.
“He is a great inspiration to all of us. Even as a doctor, he is still hitting many highs. He is a great legend in Terror folklore. He was one of the reasons we were such a dangerous team,” added Mogeshi.
One of their memorable game was when they eliminated University of Nkumba during the East African University games held at USIU in the same year. Nkumba had star Ugandan national team players.
Genga reflects on the Premier League games recalling how competitive and physical top teams like Ulinzi, Coop, KCB, Posta and Storms were between 2004 and 2006 while Terrorists were struggling.
Sam Mwalo, Terrorists captain says: “Genga is a charismatic coach who knows how to handle the continuous growing talent of UoN basketball program. In addition to developing our athletic abilities, he moulds and trains.”
He went on: “Being a doctor by profession, he sacrifices his time and finances to undertake his coaching role. He is not only a coach but also a role model to us. He is keen on our future. Beyond basketball, he has organised career talks with the team alumni.”
Between 2009 and 2013, he moved to Co-op Bank team, guiding them to four national league titles, Fiba Africa Zone Five club crowns and even starred for the bankers during the regional show in Kigali, Rwanda, where they qualified for Africa Club championship.
He won his first regional title and was named the tournament’s leading rebounder and third leading scorer. He even got professional offers to play in Middle East but they dropped the offer when they realised he was a doctor about to proceed for his masters.
Zetech University coach Job Munene, then an assistant at Co-op, says his responsibility in the team was to ensure every newcomer fitted into the team philosophy and structures.
“Genga is a very keen listener. Always on time for practice despite his tight schedule. During our training, I always challenged him to pick on Peter Kiganya, who was a monster. This helped him become a great team player,” says Munene.
He vividly remembers missing class on Saturday when they traveled to Mombasa for a league game. When his lecturer enquired where he was during class, he lied that he was unwell.
“I was unaware he already knew where I was,” he said with a chuckle. “He had a Sunday newspaper that had my photo during the match! He then sat me down and advised me to be serious and I never missed class again.”
The 6 feet 5 inch centre/forward balanced studies and sports well. In 2007, he made his debut in Kigali, Rwanda with Kenya team during the Fiba Africa Zone Five qualifiers. He went back in 2011 for another international assignment.
“I learnt a lot from Mugambi (Simon) and Ancette (Wafula) and when we returned home, I grew up idolising them. They taught me that there is no fun in losing and my basketball really changed,” he recalls.
With the coronavirus pandemic ravaging sports globally, he has appealed to the youth to focus on education even as they engage in sports in the institutions of higher learning.
“The pandemic has hit the sports world hard and those earning a living in this sector, continue to suffer. That is why getting good education is equally important,” he observes.
Genga said the values that students develop in athletics can actually help boost their motivation to perform well in class. Research has shown that involving in sports has a high influence on mental cognition, memory and concentration among students.
It also help in developing one’s positive attitude towards self-improvement, discipline, goal-setting, self-esteem and camaraderie.
“Since sports is not just all about winning, the setbacks and shortcomings that students encounter can also help them learn how to deal with stress and cope with wins and losses,” says Genga.
He said his toughest time was between 2010 and 2012. “I was doing Masters at Kenyatta Hospital and playing basketball for Co-op Bank. What most people don’t know is that Masters in Medicine is not a part time course, it is full time from 8 am to 4 pm with night shifts,” he sums up.