Former Tennessee forward A. W. Davis, a Rutledge native who was one of the most heavily recruited prep basketball players in the history of the state of Tennessee and a 1965 first-team All-America selection, died early Tuesday morning at the Universityof Tennessee Regional Medical Center. Hewas 71. K n o w n to fans and media as “The Rutledge Rifle” or “The Man with the Golden Arm,” Mr. Davis averaged 19.6 points and 8.2 rebounds his senior season in leading the Vols to a 20-5 record, and 17.3 points and 8.1 rebounds over the course ofhis career (1962-65). He was named All-SEC in 1964 and 1965.
He wore No. 20 on his home jersey and No. 21 on the road.
Mr. Davis was just a “home-boy from Rutledge,” said teammate Pat Robinette. “Rutledge was Mayberry, and A.W. was Andy Taylor. I’m not even sure he realized the status he had in Rutledge.” When the game came down to its critical moments, added Robinette, “A.W. could put the team on his back and take over.” Mr. Davis had just finished his freshman year on campus when Ray Mears arrived in Knoxville and, along with guard Danny Schultz, was the foundation on which Mears built the Tennessee basketball program.
“I’m particularly grateful to Davis and Schultz,” said Mears. “Those two young men were great basketball players who had tremendous scoring abilities. I guess I was just downright lucky they were such fine, unselfish young men.” When Tennessee defeated Kentucky 63-55 in the 1963 season finale, completing a season sweep of the Wildcats, Davis was the game’s best player, with 23 points and 13 rebounds. He had a career-high 32 points at Georgia in 1965 and scored 14 consecutive points at East Tennessee State in 1963.
“He stayed at Tennessee when he could have gone other places,” said John Ward, who broadcast Tennessee games starting
with Mr. Davis’ senior season. “He was a great player. The game followed what he did. There was something extraordinarily important about him being the first star under Mears, being a player from a contiguous county.” Mr. Davis was a fifthround draft choice of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1965 NBA draft. He spent six seasons as an assistant at Tennessee and joined Ward on Vol Network broadcasts of Tennessee basketball from 1979-82.
He is a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (1984) and the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame (1988). He was named the Tennessee Junior College Coach of the Year after his first season at Walters State in 1975-76.
The family will receivefriends Friday from 5-7 p.m. at Smith-Reagan Funeral Home, 326 Water Street, Rutledge, with a memorialservice to follow at 7 p.m.
Tom Mattingly is a freelance contributor.
A.W. Davis while playing for Tennessee in 1965.
Courtesy of: Tom Mattingly
Published by: Knoxville News Sentinel