Women’s Basketball, Polk Ready to Kickoff New Season

Jason Campos

The women’s basketball team kicks off the 2001-02 season at the second annual Tipoff Tournament on Friday November 16. In an interview, Coach Shawn Polk talked about her team and her time here at UMass Boston.

“I think we had a successful season [last year], in comparison to the two years previous,” said Polk. “We surprised ourselves a little bit in what we could do and who we could compete with.”

Nevertheless, last year was a growing experience and the team benefited from the difficulties that it faced. With confidence and some key players returning, Polk sees the team taking on new goals this season and producing some victories.

“Right now it’s just a matter of being in position and being able to capitalize on some things that we didn’t do last year because of the lack of experience. The team was young, but now I have some union and I have great retention. It helps.”

On the court, Polk will be looking toward her juniors and seniors to really step up. The team will look to feature a strong post game.

“We have two of the stronger post players in the conference. They’re a dominant force. With the addition of our guards, it’s going to be even better.”

In terms of the Little East Conference and where the Beacons rank with other conference members, Polk was candid, yet confident, in her assessment.

“If we’re at the top of our game this year, which I’m anticipating that we will be, we could fall right in the middle of the pack. Hopefully in the top six. I would definitely like to be higher. My expectations are extremely high, but I’m not going to be unrealistic, because we’re playing in a very difficult conference but the good thing about it is it’s wide open.”

When it comes to playing outside the conference, Polk looks for a balance of good competition and games that the team has a good shot of winning. She has some influence in the outer conference scheduling, in regard of which teams she wants to play and those she does not.

As is the case on every team, leadership on the part of some players plays a significant role. Polk sees leadership coming from more than just one or two players.

“Normally you can pick and designate one person to be a leader. With the group that I have, they’ve all come in at the same time and I designate them as leaders in specific areas, because some players have strengths in certain areas, while they might have weaknesses in others. On court leadership, I’m definitely looking to my two centers, Jamila Gales and Andrea Gilpin, and also one of my guards, Felicia Haynes, who has a lot of basketball experience and she is a very smart player. And then there’s Kristen Bowes, who is another one of my ‘dawgs,’ as I call them. She goes after the rest of them.”

“They all know what I expect in leadership and sometimes it comes down to whether they’re willing to assume the role, because it is a lot to carry. But I’m looking to that group to be leaders, especially since we’re bringing in five new players.”

The team is made up of players that work. Since UMass Boston is a commuter school, the players try to find work study jobs on campus to eliminate travel time to and from the classroom. Polk knows it’s not easy balancing a full time class schedule, a job, and playing a sport.

“We try to be conducive in letting the players do everything that they want to do. That’s why you have to be somewhat lenient, especially practices, although they are mandatory.”

Polk coached at Roxbury Community College for a couple seasons and also at the YMCA on Huntington Avenue in Boston. She has experience with the AAU and working at various camps. Coaching has turned out to be a wonderful experience for her.

“I never thought that I really wanted to coach. I starting coaching the guys (at the YMCA) and I really loved it. It’s different, coaching grass roots versus college. The logistics are really different.”

Polk sees herself moving into the administrative side of college athletics down the line but for now, she’s enjoying herself immensely.

“I can’t replace my time here and the administrative responsibilities that I have give me a lot experience. Charlie Titus, the athletic director, and Pam Samuleson, the assistant athletic director, try to give me opportunities so I can learn a lot, so I can take what I learn here to the next level.”