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Long before a group of basketball players from Louisville led the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to the NCAA Division II national championship, Shirlie Elliott and Carmon Davidson came from Kentucky as the first full-scholarship players in the progam's history.

Davidson and Elliott helped new coach Tommy Bartlett establish an immediate turnaround. Their 14-7 success in 1958-59 -- with home games at City High School (now the Arts & Sciences building) -- followed four years of a combined 10-57 record and was the Mocs' first winning season since '45-46.

"Alex Guerry brought me here to coach tennis and basketball, and I told him I needed some scholarships for the basketball team," Bartlett said. "He gave me two full scholarships and five halves."

Elliott, now 70, grew up in Florence just south of Cincinnati and lives there still. Davidson, 72, was from Clay County in southeastern Kentucky. They became friends while teammates at Cumberland Junior College (now University of the Cumberlands) in Williamsburg, Ky., and from there they came to Chattanooga.

"Shirlie was our floor leader. Carmon was chairman of the boards," Bartlett said while they were back on campus for homecoming last weekend.

Besides visiting their old coach, Davidson had another compelling reason to make the trip down Interstate 75. He taught first-year UTC football coach Russ Huesman in middle school in southwestern Ohio.

"Russ has a really great family," Davidson said, noting that the coach's father was a longtime high school official in his area. "I taught his sisters too."

Davidson averaged 14 rebounds a game as a Mocs junior and nearly 12 the next year against a beefed-up schedule.

He and Elliott maintained their interest after their two years. Getting involved in coaching themselves, they brought several players to Bartlett's successor, Leon Ford. Those included Tom Losh, Greg Andrews, Dale Overmann and Ralph Simpson, who carried the Mocs into the 1970s.

"Shirlie and Carmon would bring those guys down here at their own expense," Bartlett said.

"The boosters, the people of Chattanooga, Coach Bartlett -- they all treated us quite well while we were here," Elliott said. "They made you feel pretty comfortable. We had a good experience here."

Losh, who settled in Ooltewah, spent 35 years as an educator in this area after several years as a UTC assistant coach to Ron Shumate. Now he's in a construction business with his son Nick.

"Coach Davidson and Coach Elliott helped open the door, and it changed my life," Losh said Tuesday. "I couldn't have dreamed about doing the things I've been able to do if it weren't for them."

Losh played for Mason (Ohio) High School, which he said was "a country school then, with a hundred in my class and not a chance for much attention."

One night he got a call from Davidson, who coached at Loveland High in a Cincinnati suburb.

"He said he and a friend of his -- it turned out to be Shirlie Elliott -- were going down to Chattanooga that weekend to take some players to try out. He wanted me to come," Losh related. "Here was an opposing coach taking an interest in my future. It was amazing, but I didn't have anything better going on, so I came.

"They're really good men."

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