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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Polkey’s impact reaches far beyond hardwood

    Michael HustonColumnist
    Michael Huston
    Columnist

    To some on this campus, college basketball is religion, with McKale Center as its temple and March as its holy month.

    But for many who follow the men’s game with such rabid enthusiasm, who know each player and his position at Arizona over the last 10 years, there is another element of the sport that goes virtually unnoticed: Women play this game too.

    For me, someone who follows Arizona men’s basketball with a passion that those close to me would probably describe as “”unhealthy,”” Saturday afternoon’s women’s basketball game and subsequent ceremony in honor of Shawntinice Polk inside McKale Center was a much-needed reminder of the fact that women play the game I love with just as much heart.

    Polkey’s contribution to our university will never be a Final Four appearance, but instead a legacy of kindness and character.

    Of course, no one played the game, or lived life, with more heart than Shawntinice “”Polkey”” Polk. A tribute video that played during the ceremony provided those in attendance with a glimpse of Polkey and the smile she always wore, a smile her teammates have repeatedly described as “”infectious.””

    Saturday was Senior Day in McKale, and it was obvious to anyone watching the game that the UA women’s team wanted a win more than anything.

    Although in the end the squad came up short against a deeper, more talented team, the girls left it all on the floor and their willingness to give their very best until the end demonstrated the sort of spirit that we all know Polkey would have wanted from her teammates.

    Some in attendance Saturday wore T-shirts with Polkey’s face on the front and the following message printed on the back: “”It’s not what you do in life, but how you are remembered.””

    Because of how she will be remembered, we might all have a reason to smile even after such a tragic loss.

    Polkey’s contribution to our university will never be a Final Four appearance, but instead a legacy of kindness and character. Her life will be celebrated by generations of students at the UA, and she will likely be remembered with the same fondness as another fallen Arizona athlete, John “”Button”” Salmon.

    Polkey’s presence on our campus will likely also have a lasting affect on women’s hoops. For a sport that has to work hard to promote itself and constantly lives in the shadow of the incredibly popular men’s game, Polkey is a reminder of the strength of character and sheer athletic talent that can be found in women’s collegiate basketball.

    In sports, the retiring of a jersey is one of the oldest and most significant methods of honoring an athlete. The ceremony is intended to create a permanent tribute to a player’s legacy and to show that such individuals are part of Arizona basketball forever.

    In McKale Center, the jerseys hanging in the rafters represent five of the greatest players to ever grace Lute and Bobbi Olson Court with their skills and this university with their character: Kerr, Elliot, Bibby, Gardner and now Polk.

    Five athletes who stand above the rest as icons of greatness for basketball and for Arizona.

    These athletes are honored for their vast contributions to our university, and Polkey couldn’t be more deserving of a spot alongside them.

    In addition to having her jersey retired by the athletic department, one of the courts in the new practice facility will be named in her honor.

    Hopefully, Polkey’s legacy will inspire more young women to pursue athletics and to become a part of the Arizona tradition.

    For as long as McKale Center remains our temple, fans young and old will have reason to celebrate the great tradition of Arizona basketball when they look up and see the jersey of No. 00 hanging in the rafters.

    Michael Huston is a junior majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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