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Polk loved children; smile was 'infectious'

By Charles Renning and Nicole Santa Cruz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
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She was the girl with the electric smile. Although most recognized as a prominent member of the women's basketball team, Shawntinice Sunday Polk, better known as "Polkey," was more than just a star center to many in the UA community.

Polk, who died at the age of 22 yesterday after collapsing in McKale Center, served as a role model for children with learning disabilities and eventually wanted to start her own day care center.

"She was a beautiful, beautiful person who I will cherish for the rest of my life," said President Peter Likins in a press conference yesterday.

Polk was also a high-spirited person whose attitude was contagious to those around her, said athletics director Jim Livengood.

"That smile was infectious, everything about her was infectious. She will be missed and missed by so many people," said Livengood.

Polk, a family studies and human development senior, was described as outgoing and compassionate.

"Polkey loved children and had the biggest heart of anyone I knew," said Courtney Peters, who worked as a manager with the women's basketball team for the last four years.

Polk, a three-time honorable mention All-American, is the team's career leader in double-doubles and blocked shots after being a three-year starter for the Wildcats.

Memorial Fund
Contributions for the Hanford High School Memorial Fund can be sent to:
The Hanford Chamber of Commerce
240 N. Irwin St.
Hanford, CA 92320

Born in Hanford, Calif., on March 27, 1983, Polk came to the Arizona program midway through the 2001-2002 season after leading her Hanford High School team to its first California Interscholastic Federation Division II state championship.

Steve Phrantz, principal of Hanford High School, described Polk as an all-around great person who is a household name in her native town, and said Polk's death is a huge loss for the Hanford community.

"She was 'it,'" Phrantz said. "She was a legend here."

Polk, a three-time First Team All-Pacific 10 Conference member, leads the program in rebounding average (9.7 rpg), is second in rebounds and field goal percentage, and fourth in scoring average (15.6 ppg).

This year she was one of 30 candidates for the 2005-2006 John R. Wooden Award, given to the nation's top women's basketball player, and was named as a candidate for the State Farm Wade Trophy, awarded to the player of the year in Division I women's basketball.

Last season Polk finished third in the Pac-10 in rebounding (8.8 rpg) and eighth in scoring (12.7 ppg) after playing much of the year with a knee injury.

As a sophomore in 2004, Polk became the fastest player in team history to reach the 1,000-point milestone while leading the Wildcats to their first Pac-10 Championship in the program's history.

In 2003, she won the Pac-10's Freshman of the Year award.

Polk was an active member of Athletes in Action, a Christian organization for athletes.

In a 2003 Arizona Daily Wildcat article, head coach Joan Bonvicini described Polk as a team player.

"The thing I really like about her is it is always about the team," Bonvicini said. "When the team does well, that is when she is happy. She really deflects the attention and means that sincerely."

Hanford High School is establishing a memorial fund for Polk while attempting to deal with the loss, Phrantz said.

Polk is survived by her mother, Johnny Little, and her four brothers and two sisters.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report

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