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Courtside Conversations - Nov. 7, 2005
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/29/2005
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Many things seemed the same at this season’s annual Pac-10 Women’s Basketball Media Day at the H.P. Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The familiar included two new coaches trying to convince us that their teams would be competitive, Tara VanDerveer trying to convince us that her Stanford outfit has a few flaws, and of course, their were a couple of established coaches that were not afraid to brag a bit about their collection of athletes. All of this seemed like old-hat. But really, when one analyzes this year’s session, nothing was at all the same. Shawntinice Polk was missing.

 

The day started with an emotional goodbye to Polkey from Commissioner Tom Hanson.  The day ended with an emotional comment by Arizona Head Coach Joan Bonvicini. This was not in any way familiar. Shawntinice Polk was missing.

 

Also out of the ordinary was Arizona’s spot in the Pac-10 Preseason Media Poll, announced for the first time at this event. The Cats, customarily in the top three, had fallen to seventh. Shawntinice Polk was missing.

 

Then, as the Arizona contingent began its trek to the airport, well-wishers dished out hugs in abundance. Long faces shown of apparent concern and Joan Bonvicini again became the center of attention. You see, all of this makes no sense, yet it makes perfect sense. Shawntinice Polk was missing.

 

So, it seems that the basketball world has written off the short-handed Wildcats. After being ranked in many national preseason polls within basketball publications, the Cats were not one of the five Pac-10 teams ranked in the Top 25 in either major preseason poll. In short, most figure that because Polkey is missing, so will be the Arizona Wildcats.

 

Not so fast. I have seen the spirit of these athletes. I have watched their hearts bleed as they have mourned for their friend and looked deep inside of themselves to find sense and purpose. They have found their purpose. Shawntinice Polk is missing.

 

Arizona is not the most talented team in the conference. On paper, they should finish seventh. But you can’t put a heart on paper and you can’t measure purpose in a poll. This team will succeed because they have something to prove. They will be out to prove that they can still play. They will out to prove that they, too, belong in the Pac-10.

 

In short, because of the tragedy that has changed Arizona women’s basketball forever, the Wildcats will have a special season. How can I be so sure? Shawntinice Polk is missing. Her teammates will not forget her. Watch out for Arizona. They will be on a mission in 2005.

 

See you on the radio!

Paul Johnson

 

*All Wildcat women’s basketball games are broadcast live on AM 1330 KJLL.

 

To contact Paul Johnson, e-mail him at pjohnson@ccctucson.org.

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