In her past two coaching jobs, Amber Ellison took over struggling programs and tried to build on tradition at Sarahsville Shenandoah and Franklin Heights.

In her past two coaching jobs, Amber Ellison took over struggling programs and tried to build on tradition at Sarahsville Shenandoah and Franklin Heights.

As the first coach of the Olentangy Orange High School girls basketball team, things are different.

"We're going to have a very young and very inexperienced team to work with this year, but we're just going to try to build a program from top to bottom," said Ellison, whose team will play host to Centennial on Saturday in the Orange Tipoff Classic and visit Olentangy Liberty on Tuesday. "Some of the challenges are getting the team to learn my style, but we can mold the team into whatever we want."

Ellison was a shooting guard at Wheeling Jesuit from 1999-2003 and was the 2001-02 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2001-02. She was the coach at Shenandoah from 2004-2007, compiling a 56-17 record. The Zeps were Division III district semifinalists in her first two seasons and a district runner-up in 2006-07. Ellison was the Pioneer Valley Conference Coach of the Year twice.

Last year, Ellison had her first losing season, compiling a 2-18 record at Franklin Heights. Ellison still teaches at Franklin Heights, which is a rival of Orange in the OCC-Capital Division.

"It'll be a little bit odd, but in a way I'm looking forward to it," Ellison said. "Last year I built some great relationships with the girls there and I was torn if I really wanted to leave. But this was a great opportunity."

Also in the OCC-Capital are Big Walnut, New Albany, Delaware, Mount Vernon and Watkins Memorial.

"New Albany is going to be the favorite, but we feel like we can compete with everyone in the Capital," Ellison said. "Night in and night out, anyone can beat anyone in our conference."

Only one player saw varsity time last season. Junior T.J. Williams, a 5-foot-9 forward who was second in scoring (7.8 points) and rebounds (5.3) for Olentangy, was honorable mention all-district in Division I.

"We're starting to get ready," Williams said. "We've definitely developed chemistry and work together as a team. The biggest thing that's going to make or break our season is the effort we'll give as a team."

Junior Megan Walker (5-5) will be a guard and junior Chelsea Mayweather (5-8) will play forward.

Other top players include sophomores Taylor Thompson (5-5 guard), Taryn Blickensderfer (5-10 forward) and Fatima Konteh (5-5 guard) and freshmen Allison Donatelli (5-6 point guard), Kelsey Lewis (6-2 forward) and Haley Mucha (6-1 forward).

"As a coach, I emphasize defensive intensity. I want to use a full-court press a lot of the time and push the ball up the floor," Ellison said. "We're going to try to speed up the tempo.

"We have the athletes to play that style but with us being young, we're really going to have to take care of the basketball and make smart decisions."

At a glance

•Coach: Amber Ellison, first season

•Opener: Saturday vs. Centennial

•Key players: Allison Donatelli, Kelsey Lewis, Haley Mucha, Taylor Thompson, Megan Walker and T.J. Williams