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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Teammate on Polk’s life and legacy as a Wildcat

Former Arizona women’s basketball player Shawntinice Polk died on Sept. 26, 2005, at the age of 22. Polk was inducted to the UA Sports Hall of Fame this weekend.

Her friend and former teammate Joy Hollingsworth, currently an assistant coach at Seattle University and writer for ESPN’s HoopGurlz and WBCA Magazine, reached out to the Daily Wildcat to write this piece on Polk’s life and legacy as an Arizona Wildcat.

This past Friday, my teammates and I had that chance to travel back to Tucson for the Hall of Fame ceremony inducting Shawntinice Polk. As I listened to her story there was not an ounce of doubt in my heart that her spirit was in McKale Center, maneuvering its way through the red and blue walls as I could see her face, touch her smile, feel her love and hear her laugh.

As Pokey was being honored for the beast mentality and rebounding machine she displayed on the court, let me share briefly about the person we knew as our teammate and sister.

I’m sure anyone who knew Polkey and called her a friend rarely remembered what she said, or sometimes what she did, but never will forget how she made you feel. She was the kind of person who stood up for people who couldn’t stand for themselves, made you smile at her infectious laugh and would always call you by your nickname.

While others usually celebrate their 21st birthday at a local establishment that serves tasty drinks, I found myself eating a chicken picatta dinner and a giant piece of strawberry cheese cake from the Cheesecake Factory in my room. Polkey and I were texting back and forth that night, and she asked what I was doing for my birthday. When I told her about my lonely evening, she sent “LOL” in a text message and called me a loser — I completely agreed with her.

A couple hours later, she told me to come over to her place. As I walked through the front door, Ashley (Whisonant), Rachael (Schein) and Polkey were standing in the living room next to a candle lit ice cream birthday cake holding Mickey Mouse presents, my favorite cartoon character. Singing to the top of their lungs, they started out with the traditional happy birthday song then quickly switched to the soulful Stevie Wonder version. That’s when the dance moves and loud handclaps broke out. This was the kind of person she was — caring, compassionate, fun and loving and that’s the angel I know she is now today.

What I’ve learned from living 27 years on this earth is that only thing in life that is promised is death. Expectations about living and the gift of life are shattered by the thought of it. The look of death can be frightening, but I’m extremely thankful for that common ground we share between each other. It makes us appreciate the little things even that much more. Enjoying a bite of bagel or a cup of coffee in the morning, looking at the colorful leaves falling from tree branches, or not going a day without saying “I Love You” — three simple words — to someone you care about.

As it left burning holes in our hearts when Polkey quickly departed this breathing world, we honor her by living every single day as it was our last — laughing in the face of fear, smiling amongst frowns and feeling joy when life seems to suck. Not worrying about the things we can’t control but living in the moment — fortunate to catch sight of another sunrise and feel its warmth, or experience the cool shadow of the moon yet again. Because when we exhale our last breathe, pound our last heart beat and take that last blink of an eye, it’s reassuring to know that you have no regrets.

Even though it took a matter of seconds to say our peaceful goodbyes to Polkey, we had 22 years to say hello, and for that, we are all so grateful for that special blessing.

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