Catching Up With Ayishatu Kanteh
When one sees Ayishatu Kanteh these days, they will probably find her working in her beauty shop.
The former Savannah State tennis standout came to the United States in 1991 and it’s basically been her home ever since.
Her journey to Savannah, Georgia all started on the tennis courts.
Ayishatu began playing tennis while in junior high school in her native Nigeria.
Born and raised in Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, she was the second of four sisters. Her mother was a stay-at-home wife while her father, who is now deceased, was in the military.
Kanteh was offered a full ride to join the tennis team at SSU; while she accepted, Kanteh came to find out a few of her friends were already on the team.
Titi Onashile, Roseline Dike and Mary Amina were already at Savannah State and members of the tennis team so they told the coach about Ayishatu and they started to recruit her.
She enrolled at SSU in 1991 but did not play. The team went on to win the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) tennis title. Onashile was named the to the All-SIAC team and was named the SIAC MVP while the head coach, James Mitchell was named Coach of the Year. Mitchell’s other job was in football where he was the Tigers offense line coach.
The following year, Kerry Hathaway took over the program and the team success continued under his watch until 1995.
SSU won the SIAC tennis championships in 1991 and finished as the runner-up in ’92 and ’93. SSU bounced back to regain the conference crown in 94 and 95.
Ayishatu joined the team in 1992 and had instant success. She was the number one singles player for three straight years and was the SIAC Player of the Year as a sophomore.
Just before her senior season she got married and she earned her degree in recreation in 1996.
After leaving SSU, she enrolled in cosmetology school and she opened up her first shop on Waters Avenue, near Barnes Restaurant less than five years later. She has since moved her shop to her home.
Ayishatu says she still keeps in touch with a few of her former teammates and often keeps an eye on the current SSU tennis program, which has been struggling since the late 1990s.
“What made the team good back then is that we worked as a team and played harder and refused to lose any games. We were determined to win.”
When asked what does she think the current SSU team need to do to get back on the winning track, she stated “They have to practice hard, be discipline and persistent and focus and work as a team.”