TASMANIA lost one of its most famous sporting sons on Thursday with the death of basketballer Ian Davies at the age of 57 in Hobart.
Arguably the best basketballer the state has produced, the Longford-born, Davies starred in US college basketball before returning home to play for the Launceston Casino City team which won the National Basketball League championship in 1981.
His prodigious talent saw him go on to play with the Newcastle Falcons, Geelong Supercats and Sydney Kings before representing Australia at the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games as well as two world championships.
He was the top scorer from all countries at the Moscow Olympics with 209 points at an average of 29.9.
Davies retired in 1990 with 252 games to his name and was later inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame.
Curtis Coleman, his best mate for 35 years, met him at school in the US, followed him to Australia to play basketball and paid tribute to his talent yesterday.
``He was the man with the golden arm,'' he said.
``Ian Davies was the consummate jump-shot shooter.
``I met him in the summer 1978 in a park in Galesburg, Illinois, south of Chicago.
``He was the only Anglo-Saxon playing basketball on the court among numerous Afro-American players and I stood there and watched and saw something special about him.
``He had unlimited range.
``He perfected the three-point shot before they even had a line on the court for it in those days.''
Coleman played one year of college basketball with Davies in the US before the Tasmanian was lured back to his home state by Launceston Casino City basketball club president Gary Carr with an offer to play for the newly-formed club in the National Basketball League.
``We recruited him through Neil Kearney who rang me in 1979 when we were forming the team,'' Carr said.
``Kearney was working in America and being from Longford he heard about this kid who was playing basketball in high school in Chicago.
``He saw him play and knew about us getting a team together and the rest is history.
``I rang Ian, and being the son of Fred Davies he was accepted particularly by the Longford people almost instantly - when I made the first approach and spoke to his mother it gave her enormous pleasure to come back to Australia. She came back with Ian and he played for us from 1979-81 and we won the NBL title in '81 - the only Tasmanian team to win the national league title but unfortunately as all teams do in Tasmania we ran into difficulties trying to fund the team and it folded in '82.''
Carr remembered Davies as a likeable fellow who won many games for the club.
``In 1981, we played in Adelaide the week before the finals and we were in fifth spot and had to play Coburg with Davies and US import Jim Erikson starring.
``We finished fourth and went off to Adelaide to play the top side Brisbane in our semi-final.
``It came to the seven-second mark and we were one point down. Davies got fouled and he dropped both shots and we ended up winning and putting Brisbane out by a point much to the disgust of an ex-Launceston boy in David Claxton who coached Brisbane.
``On the Sunday night we played Nunawading in the final and beat them by 39 points and Davies absolutely starred.
``He was a fantastic outside shooter and if we had three points in those days outside the circle he would have sunk 100 points a game because that's where he made most of his shots.
``He could only see really out of one eye and to do what he did was absolutely brilliant.''
Davies inherited his sporting genes from his father, Carlton and Longford football legend Fred `Mulga' Davies.
Davies snr played 125 games for Carlton and was part of its 1947 premiership team.
He moved to Tasmania and coached Longford for 105 games from 1953-60, the club's golden era, taking it to NTFA premierships in 1955, 57-58.
The Tigers also won the state premiership in 1957, beating North Hobart, with that team later inducted into the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame and Davies named captain-coach of the Longford team of the century.
He died tragically just before his 40th birthday and his wife and young son then moved to live in the US where he later met his life-long friend in Coleman, who still lives in Hobart and remained close to Davies right up until his untimely death.
``He was uncanny playing in two Olympic and world championships and it is just so sad his health failed him.
``We played together with Casino City with imports Cliff Martin, Jim Ericksen and Trevor Matthews who I had a lot of respect for from the North-West Coast.
``It was probably one of the best line-ups ever to play together for any basketball team in Australia - even by today's standards I reckon that team would be a formidable force.''