Shawntinice Polk

Chances are, you’ve already heard about the tragic, sudden death of Shawntinice Polk, a star basketball player from the University of Arizona.
I heard the news as soon as I sat down at my desk today, and needless to say, I’m shocked, stunned, everything. According to the Associated Press, Polk collapsed at the McKale Center in Tucson on Monday morning. Apparently, she hadn’t been feeling well.
If you follow hoops as religiously as I do, you know all about the 6-foot-5 Polk. She was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2002-03 and was an All-Pac-10 player three years in a row.
But when I think about Polk (or Polkie, as she was known in hoops circles), I’m brought back to a winter night at Arco Arena in 2001. Amador Valley High School was facing Hanford, Polk’s former stomping grounds, with the California Interscholastic Federation Division II state championship on the line.
I remember talking with former Amador Valley coach Elizabeth Stanley before the game and asking her how on earth the Dons were going to stop Polk. Stanley knew it was going to be tough.
Here’s what she said at the time, “We have to keep the ball out of Polk’s hands. She can’t score if she doesn’t have the ball. All we can do is put together a plan and hope it works.”
Amador Valley, normally a man-to-man team, dropped into some zany zone to deal with Polk. For the most part, Stanley’s strategy worked. The Dons held Polk to 12 points, but Hanford had too many weapons.
Berkeley wasn’t so lucky. That same season, Polk dropped 20 points, 13 rebounds and four assists on the Yellow Jackets at the Acalanes Shootout. That was my first introduction to Polkie. To put it mildly, I was impressed. After the game, I wandered over to former Berkeley forward Sabrina Keys, who had the misfortune of guarding Polk.
Keys laughed as she saw me approaching. I think her comment sums things up perfectly.
“I just kept asking her, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’”
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  • Danielle

    Thank you for paying tribute to Polkie. I don’t think there was enough coverage. Her death is so much more important than hihgh school sports. It is a real tragedy. She was so young and talented. She had such a bright future ahead of her. From what I hear, she was a good kid.