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Memphis East boys basketball is using three-peat Mustangs era as motivation

The days of Penny Hardaway and James Wiseman at East are over, but this year's squad is hoping to recapture some of that magic

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Penny Hardaway, James Wiseman, Alex Lomax, Chandler Lawson, Malcolm Dandridge no longer roam the halls, but the legacy of the three-time state champion Mustangs lives on at Memphis East.

"The tradition has always been here," head coach Jevonte Holmes said. 

The banners from 2016, 2017 and 2018 hang from the gym walls. The trophies are proudly displayed in the front lobby. Those teams are not ghosts that haunt this year's squad. Rather, Holmes uses them as motivation.

"I address it a lot," he said. "That's what they've got to shoot for. Comparing themselves to James and that group, that's not a comparison. But you got to shoot for that."

As the third-ranked team in the state, and at 18-4, these Mustangs are well on their way.  A pair of talented sophomores headline their talent: 6-foot-6 Billy Richmond, and a 6-foot-8 Alijah Curry.

The pair were in middle school, when the Mustangs pulled off the three-peat.

"Seeing James, A-Lo, TJ, Chandler, all those guys, that's what made me fall in love with basketball and made me want to play here," Richmond said.

"It makes you like, 'Hey, I want to be great," Curry said. "I want to do something that a person that went here, they did it before. It can be done, so I can do it."

Only one current player, senior Markese Washington was at East for Wiseman's senior year. So while this team looks to the Mustangs of old for inspiration, they're set on carving their own path to a gold ball.

"When James was here, he had A-Lo and his group," Curry said. "Now it's me, Markese, me, Billy, and the rest of my team. It's just a different team. So it's just another era of time and just a different team."

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