By Danielle Rideau
Shawntinice Polk UA women's basketball center
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Arizona women's basketball center Shawntinice Polk died yesterday morning from an apparent blood clot in her lungs.
The 22-year-old basketball player, affectionately known as "Polkey" by her request, collapsed unexpectedly in McKale Center and was taken to University Medical Center where she was pronounced dead, officials said in a press conference.
Members of the women's basketball team were told last night that an autopsy showed Polk developed a blood clot in the back of her knee, which led to her eventual collapse.
Though Polk was in McKale Center when she collapsed, she was not there to practice or workout, Livengood said.
Polk, a family studies and human development senior, was around other people at the time of her collapse, although whether they were teammates or other athletes could not be released, Livengood said.
The athletics department notified as many student-athletes as possible about Polk's death, Livengood said.
"Their reaction, as ours, as yours was, (is) absolute shock; these aren't the kinds of things anyone can explain," Livengood said.
While her immediate family is from Hanford, Calif., Livengood said, Polk developed a family with the athletic community as well.
"Her family is outside of Arizona, the question, though, 'does she have family here in town?' Absolutely. She has 500 student-athletes who dearly love her, she has a basketball team, she has a community," Livengood said.
Arizona women's basketball head coach Joan Bonvicini was recruiting in Los Angeles when she received news of Polk's death and returned to Tucson yesterday afternoon, Livengood said.
"This is a terribly sad, heartbreaking day in Arizona women's basketball," Bonvincini said in a written statement. "We all love Polkey. Our thoughts and prayers are with Polkey, her family and our Arizona family."
President Peter Likins was visibly shaken during the press conference as he reminisced about Polk and the first time he met her.
"I was so taken by her. She was shy, but at the same time (a) wonderfully appealing young woman," he said.
Likins said he developed a friendship with Polk prior to her athletic accomplishments.
"(She) did a good job academically, and she came in to see me and said, 'I can do it! I can do it! I can succeed in this place,' and that meant she can succeed in life," Likins said through tears. "It was such a beautiful experience for me."
Livengood said counselors and other specialists are available to all student-athletes at Campus Health Service. Students, faculty and staff who also seek counseling can contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 621-3334.
- Lindsey Frazier contributed to this report.