Ghana's Yakubu Lea becomes first nationally ranked tennis player in school history (No. 68 ITA-NAIA)

Ghana's Yakubu Lea becomes first nationally ranked tennis player in school history (No. 68 ITA-NAIA)

Behind a terrific freshman campaign that saw freshman No. 1 singles tennis talent Abubakar Yakubu Lea go 11-6 in singles, and a perfect 7-0 against River States Conference competition at the No. 1 singles slot, Yakubu Lea officially became the first Shawnee State men's tennis player in program history to earn a national ranking in the ITA-NAIA national rankings, as Yakubu Lea is 68th nationally according to officials within the NAIA realm of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, as released by the ITA this week.

With his national ranking inside the ITA-NAIA realm, Yakubu Lea is the first-ever tennis player, either on the men's side or the women's, to be nationally ranked.

To put into perspective the kind of accomplishment this entails, nearby Russell High School graduate and NCAA Division II West Virginia State transfer Kierstin Hensley, who was a Honorable Mention NAIA All-American at Shawnee State during the 2021 season, wasn't nationally ranked in the ITA-NAIA rankings as arguably the top tennis player in school history on either side of the coin prior to Yakubu Lea's arrival.

During his fantastic 2024 season, Yakubu Lea went 11-6 in official matches this season with an additional victory in exhibition play. Yakubu Lea earned River States Conference Newcomer of the Year honors and defeated Jose Andres Perez Perez, the River States Conference's Player of the Year and No. 36 overall player in the national rankings, during the year. Yakubu Lea also bested NCAA Division I singles talent Carlos Rodriguez Gonzalez, who was Lindenwood (Mo.)'s No. 1 singles player and a talent that nabbed three victories of his own over Saint Louis University as well as an additional win over the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Yakubu Lea's six losses were all against top-notch competition, as five of the losses came against nationally ranked singles players -- three of whom are in the national top-25 in their respective associations. The freshman fell by scant margins to the No. 4 ITA-NAIA singles talent (Vaclav Schneider, William Woods), No. 24 ITA-NAIA singles player (Timur Chsherbakov, Pikeville), No. 38 ITA-NAIA individual (Max Barriere, Georgetown) and the No. 44 ITA-NAIA-ranked hand (Issac Steiner, Indiana Wesleyan) as well as the No. 9-ranked NCAA Division III player in the country, Denison's Kael Shalin Shah.

Yakubu Lea, who won two River States Conference Player of the Week honors over the course of the spring season, holds a 17.9 International Tennis Federation World Tennis Number. Yakubu Lea also went 7-7 in doubles competition and figures to play a much larger factor on that end of the spectrum next season, as well.