Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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DANVILLE — The final image from OJ Harrison’s second season as a Schlarman girls’ basketball assistant coach was a memorable one.

The Danville native hopped around with Hilltopper athletes after they’d doused head coach Keith Peoples with a tub of water, following Schlarman’s second consecutive Class 1A state championship victory last February.

Harrison hopes to be at the center of a similar treatment down the line.

Hilltoppers athletic director Eric Crist on Monday announced Harrison will take over for Peoples as Schlarman’s  head girls’ basketball coach.

Peoples stepped aside in June to lead Schlarman’s junior high boys’ team.

“I’m ecstatic. I truly am,” Harrison said. “The tradition that’s been created there, the winning tradition and the blueprint that’s been laid, I’m really blessed to inherit a program like this.”

Previously a Danville boys’ assistant for three years, Harrison will helm a squad that graduated four seniors who are playing at the college level, including Notre Dame’s Anaya Peoples and Oakland’s Sydney Gouard.

The Hilltoppers, who posted a 66-3 record over the last two campaigns, simultaneously return the likes of Division I prospect Capria Brown among others.

“When you’re losing four seniors like we lost, you’ve got to figure out a way to build the program back up,” Harrison said. “They were definitely looking for somebody who could build up the younger classes and get them going.”

Harrison participated in college hoops at Vincennes, Utah State and North Dakota, graduating from the last of those three in 2009.

He plans to use those experiences in his game planning, citing the offense of former longtime Utah State coach Stew Morrill as an example.

By the same token, he’s also happy sticking with Keith Peoples’ defensive scheme, which limited Schlarman’s foes to an average of 31.9 points per game in 2018-19.

“It’s going to be a pretty eventful season,” Harrison said. “There’s a little added pressure to try and live up to what’s been done in the past.”

Harrison already has tabbed one assistant in Sudan Ellington, who has worked with former NBA coach John Lucas II and noted basketball scout Bob Gibbons.

No matter what form the rest of Harrison’s sideline takes in his first-ever run as a head coach, he’s eagerly anticipating the Hilltoppers’ home opener on Dec. 2 against Milford.

“It really means a lot, me being from the community and being able to have a totally direct impact on these kids’ lives,” Harrison said. “It means a lot to me to represent our community so proudly.”

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).