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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Emotional ceremony in store for Cats

    Simply put, Sept. 26 changed everything.

    When former Arizona women’s basketball standout Shawntinice Polk died that fall day last year, it sent shockwaves across campus – shockwaves that continue to resonate to this day.

    “”She’s touched a lot of people, not just players, but people from opposing teams, fans,”” said Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini. “”And she’s someone we’re going to remember for a long time, hopefully forever.””

    Universally loved, “”Polkey”” was a friend and an inspiration to all she touched during her time as a Wildcat, and even though she never got the chance to suit up for her senior season, she will be honored alongside seniors Natalie Jones and Anna Chappell as well as Phakisha Peterson – who suffered a career-ending injury the summer prior to her sophomore season – following Arizona’s (7-19, 3-13 Pacific 10 Conference) Saturday afternoon 2 p.m. tip against No. 11 Stanford (18-6, 12-3) on Senior Day. In a special postgame ceremony, Polk’s No. 00 will be raised to the rafters forever.

    “”It’s going to be very emotional,”” Bonvicini said. “”I think if Polkey was alive and had played four years, I’m hopeful they would have retired her uniform anyway because she’s a great player. I think this is deserving. She’s a great kid, and we miss her.””

    Said Chappell: “”Every time I go out there, I look at the shot clock before a game because that’s the only thing in McKale that says ’00.'””

    An incredible person off the court, Polk was equally incredible on it.

    In her three seasons as a Wildcat, the 6-foot-5 center garnered dozens of awards ranging from Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year to MVP of the Fiesta Bowl Classic. This season, she was a candidate for both the Wade Trophy and the Wooden Award, which are given to women’s college basketball’s most outstanding player.

    Polk continues to be Arizona’s career leader in double-doubles with 46 and blocks with 222, records that may stand for a long time, despite Polk having only competed for three seasons. In her illustrious career, Polk reached the double-digit points plateau an astonishing 79 times.

    It was supposed to be her senior season. She was supposed to play alongside Jones, a guard, and Chappell, a forward.

    Together, they were supposed to dominate the Pacific 10 Conference and make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, where Arizona is hosting first- and second-round games this year.

    “”It’s always emotional for Senior Day, but I think this year is particularly very emotional for all the things we’ve gone through, and they’ve been some excellent leaders,”” Bonvicini said of Chappell and Jones. “”I’m going to miss them a lot because we’ve shared something.””

    Despite all the struggles the Wildcats faced this year, one would be hard-pressed to find a team with more of an upbeat attitude in the entire country, something that could pay dividends next year when they expect to return to full force.

    That team will be minus seniors Jones and Chappell, whose careers are now beginning to wind down. Tomorrow night’s matchup with Stanford will be the final home game in their respective careers.

    “”Being a senior, you kind of take a step back and reflect on the year, knowing that the year wasn’t how I would’ve liked it to be, but I still have some positive things that I got out of this year,”” Jones said. “”I grew as a person and also as a leader.””

    Jones, who has averaged a career-best 14.6 points per game so far this season, was named the team’s defensive MVP of the 2004-05 season, and for good reason, as she swiped 44 steals and was twice given the “”UA Hustle Award”” by her teammates.

    “”To retire (Polk’s) jersey, and me and Anna saying farewell to the McKale Center, our last time playing on the floor – it’s going to be very emotional,”” said Jones, who has friends and family flying in from her home in Alaska. “”It went by fast when you really think about it.

    “”I look at it as I got to play … my best years with great athletes that came in and out and was able to learn from all of them.””

    Chappell, the second Canadian ever signed by Bonvicini, has also seen an increase in production this season, setting career highs in every major category, from points (eight) to rebounds (five).

    “”It’s kind of just strange, you just think it’s never going to end,”” said Chappell, whose family will make the trip from her hometown Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, Canada. “”You have that feeling that you’re never going to be done.

    “”It’s going to be hard, obviously. Right now, I’m trying not to think about it.””

    Asked what her departing teammates mean to the program, sophomore guard Jessica Arnold responded by saying, “”Natalie Jones, Anna Chappell, they’re awesome people, awesome basketball players, and they’re going to do great stuff after they graduate.

    “”It’s been a pleasure to play with them, I mean I love them with all my heart, and it’s going to be sad to see them go.””

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