Growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, Peter Kiganya, or “Leon Africano” (Spanish for “African Lion,” a nickname he earned from his playing days in South America), never envisioned himself entering the international arena of basketball until his senior year of high school. He would go on to be what some have called, “the most experienced and successful Kenyan basketball export”. The Kenyan found his niche in no time at all and was presented with the opportunity to travel to the United States. Within several years Kiganya found himself dominating the courts of the U.S. Junior College level.
By learning to balance both his offensive and defensive game and honing his skills, he quickly advanced to the NCAA Division II level playing for Abilene Christian University, where some of his highlights included 10.5 rebounds a game (fourth in the nation), a season high of 41 points, scored more than 1000 points at ACU, grabbed 22 rebounds in a game, 515 career points in a season (making him the 17th player in program history to reach 500 points) and becoming the Co-MVP of the Lone Star Conference. Upon graduating from Abilene Christian University in 2002, Kiganya was drafted by Espanol de Talca in Chile and because he was regularly posting 29 or more points per game, Kiganya was voted Best Import Player and proved himself to be a star.
“Going to college and playing ball was a thrill for me,” Kiganya said. “I earned a lot of experience, playing with guys who had been in the game from as early as third grade”
Kiganya grew up in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, where he was cared for by his mother and sister. Kiganya had always been a tall and slim guy, but he had invested in other activities besides basketball, such as music and theater. It wasn’t until his junior year in high school when he started to play basketball, and almost instantly he found success.
In 2004 he found himself playing basketball in Uruguay for Club Welcome, where the press association would name him The Most Solid Player. He would go on to be invited to play as a guest player in Rwanda for APR during the Rwanda Annual Genocide Tournament. The following year, Kiganya played for the Sprite Stormers in the Kenya Basketball Premier League, and he ended up back in Chile with his former team, Espanol de Talca, where he was again voted as one of the best import players. By the time he left Stormers, the team was undefeated in the local league, and a Standard reporter could not help and observe how Kiganya had be shutting down other best players on opposing teams with ease.
“[He] managed to show lots of Kenyans what kind of basketball is played worldwide,” Kiganya’s former teammate Steve Mongo said. “It was a great experience for me because I got to learn a lot from [him].”
Kiganya would continue his career by joining Echague Atletico in Argentina, but due to the team’s poor performance and economic difficulties, he was eventually released. Kiganya went on to win 3 championships one in Chile, Paraguay, and Peru and eventually in 2009, Kiganya would retire from professional basketball. Although he had retired, Kiganya had not stepped away from the game.
While playing overseas, Kiganya had formed an NGO Friends of Basketball Kenya. Following his retirement, he returned to Kenya to run his organization, where he mentored and coached young adults in Kimathi Estate. He also played for Cooperative Bank of Kenya in the local league and won the local league twice, as well as the East and Central Africa club championships, where he was crowned MVP.
In 2013, Peter retired from active basketball, but once again, he had not stepped away from the game. He began working with the NBA Sprite program and helped form the University basketball league ZUBL in Kenya. He was named an assistant coach to the Kenyan national team, and helped them to a podium finish.
“When I go back [to Kenya] I can talk to players from Kenya, and I can tell them I’ve sat down and I’ve coached [Division II] guys and how much work they’ve put in to get where they are,” Kiganya said. “Then I can tell them how much work they need to put in to be where the other players are. I have more influence on them in telling them that because I’ve seen how much work the players who make the NBA put in, and I can tell them the path they need to take to get where they want to go. With my background, having played in the [United] States and excel and going to play overseas, that gives me more heresy with the players when I’m talking to them back home”
“Pete has traveled the world and has played for so many different coaches and coaching styles, philosophies, and it’s awesome as a head coach to be able to bounce off all these different ideas,” Head Angelo State University basketball coach Cinco Boone said. “I think his past experiences have been a huge benefit [at Angelo State].”
To further his coaching knowledge, Kiganya returned to the United States. He began volunteering as an assistant coach at the University of Texas Dallas where the team won the conference title and advanced to the sweet 16. He then moved to Angelo State University where he was a graduate assistant for two years, and graduated with a master’s in Coaching, Sport, Recreation and Fitness Administration.
“Pete does a great job… he’s a terrific person, so right off the bat he gains respect just because of how he treats other people,” Coach Boone said. “Just a loyal dependable guy that you know is always in your corner. Any coach wants a guy like that sitting on his bench.”
In 2015, Kiganya was Kenya’s representative to the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP) 8th Edition, where he worked to help establish a pathway for high school basketball coaches to attain FIBA certification. Kiganya is also working ambitiously to create a basketball academy in Kenya, where he will help coaches receive coaching certifications, establish county teams in all 47 counties, and coach players in the academy.
“I enjoy the devotion and the work you see a player put in,” Kiganya said. “You see a player come in and there are a lot of things he cannot do, but then you walk with them until they can do certain things, and to me that’s fun.”
In 2016, Kiganya was inducted into the hall of fame at Abilene Christian University where he won many accolades such as Co-Mvp Lone Star conference, led the lone star conference in rebounding, was a three time all conference player and is one of the forwards chosen to the ACU Lonestar Era starting five team.
He continually attends USA basketball camps throughout the USA and in 2018 he launched his Basketball Hope Tour. With the help of Kenya Diaspora Sports and Legacy, Kiganya travelled to Kenya and did camps in Nakuru, Kisumu, Yala and Nairobi. During this tour Kiganya was able to give away 600 lbs of basketball equipment ranging from basketballs, basketball shoes, jerseys and uniforms. It was a great success and the next Basketball Hope Tour is in August 2019.
For how you can be part of this, you can contact Kiganya via email at email@example.com or by filling out the form on the contact page.