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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Andy Webb coaches the East Hamilton boys' basketball team during a Times Free Press Best of Preps tournament semifinal against Baylor on Jan. 3 at Chattanooga State.

When Andy Webb took charge of the East Hamilton boys' basketball program last July, the Hurricanes' new head coach zoned in on a mission.

Ten months later, Webb believes the program is in great shape thanks to the combination of a bevy of athletic playmakers and what he calls a "first-rate coaching staff".

While Cleveland dominated District 5-AAA this past season, the Hurricanes — who went 14-14 overall in Webb's first season — could be the team to look out for once basketball returns.

Haynes Eller, Jordan Harris, Marcus Long, Darwin Randolph and Ian Shropshire were East Hamilton's starters the second half of last season, when all five were juniors. The team is also excited about Cade Pendleton, a 6-foot-8, 185-pounder who will be a junior next season, is a Division prospect on the rise and has received interest from Belmont and Navy.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / East Hamilton's Darwin Randolph signals to his teammates during a District 5-AAA game at Cleveland on Jan. 10.

"I am very blessed to have such tremendous, high-character men around me that invest in such great kids," said Webb, who helped Science Hill average 24 wins per season from 2011 to 2019. "We have locked in on finding coaches of the highest character and passion for building up these young men and developing our student-athletes to play at the next level."

Webb's first hire was Ricky Taylor, who as a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior scored 41 points in a double-overtime win over UNC Greensboro on Jan. 27, 2011.

"Coach Taylor has committed his life to helping others," Webb said. "At 30 years old he is a senior pastor at his church, has created multiple scholarship opportunities for inner city youth and spends countless hours using his talents and passion as a high-level player development coach. Ricky is as good as anyone I have seen at helping kids grow their ceiling for basketball potential."

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / UTC's Ricky Taylor, with ball, breaks away from The Citadel's Mike Groselle during a SoCon matchup on Feb. 18, 2012, at McKenzie Arena. Taylor is now an assistant for the East Hamilton boys' basketball program.

As the Hurricanes work to take their game to the next level, they will also try to soak in all the expertise provided by assistant coaches Jordan Hall and Tyler Lowery.

Lowery was a student manager for current LSU men's basketball coach Will Wade during his time at UTC and has also picked the brain of current Louisville's men basketball coach Chris Mack, who led Xavier to the Elite Eight in the 2017 NCAA tournament.

Hall is the most recent hire for the Hurricanes. He spent the past two seasons as an assistant for NAIA Division II member Tennessee Wesleyan University, having excelled as 3-point sharpshooter for the Bulldogs during his playing career. He shot 41.4% from behind the arc as a senior in 2017-18.

"We have an extremely young staff with a lot of energy," Webb said. "On top of that, our guys soak up everything like a sponge and want to live in the gym. They don't want to just learn how to be scorers, but are dedicated to learning how the game is played. Our program could not be hungrier."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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