Polk remembered as having warm, direct disposition

Updated: September 29, 2005, 1:16 AM ET
Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona center Shawntinice Polk, who died of a pulmonary blood clot Monday after collapsing on campus, was remembered Wednesday night as strong athlete who had a warm and direct disposition.

More than 1,000 students, coaches, school administrators and fans attended a memorial service for the 22-year-old player at the McKale Center, the university arena where she collapsed. She wasn't working out or practicing at the time of her death.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior was a three-time all-Pac-10 selection and two-time honorable mention All-American selection. She also was the school's career leader in double-doubles (46) and blocked shots (222).

"She was an incredible basketball player, but her truest gifts were her personality and love for the other people that she was with," Arizona women's coach Joan Bonvicini said. "Her voice, especially her laugh, could be heard for a block, and believe me, she was hilarious."

Teammates lined up to share their thoughts on Polk, who preferred her nickname "Polkey."

"I was always excited just to be around her," said sophomore guard Ashley Whisonant, her voice breaking up. "She was always very straightforward. If you needed an honest opinion, she was the one to go to."

Senior Natalie Jones explained how she felt when she hearing of Polk's death.

"I felt lost and numb, like someone had just ripped my heart out," Jones said through tears. "Look how many lives you touched, Polkey."

Arizona men's basketball star Hassan Adams spoke of his relationship with Polk as though they were siblings.

"I felt protected around her," Adams said. "She was like a big sister to me."

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office has said the cause of death for Polk was rare for a healthy woman of her age.

Polk was the driving force behind a team that went 20-12 and earned an NCAA Tournament berth last season. She led the conference in blocked shots at 2.1 per game last season and was third in rebounding at eight per game.

She was an honorable mention AP all-American selection as a freshman and sophomore before playing through much of her junior season with a knee injury. She still averaged 12.7 points and 8 rebounds a game last season.

Polk was a Parade magazine first-team All-American at Hanford (Calif.) High School.

Funeral services will be held Sunday in Polk's hometown of Hanford.

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

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press