SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Orlando Johnson's decision to forego the NBA Draft and return to UC Santa Barbara for his senior season has paid off. Twofold.
Johnson has been invited to attend the 2011 World University Games Team Training Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. beginning on July 29. There, he will be competing for a spot on the U.S. National Team that will play at the Games in Shenzhen, China from Aug. 12-22.
"Anytime you get a chance to represent your country it's an honor and very exciting," Johnson said. "It's also nice to be recognized as a top player, people take notice of that."
"This is phenomenal for O.J.," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "The opportunity to go to the training camp will be great exposure for him and for our program. These opportunities don't come around that often and this one couldn't have come to a more deserving person."
While several Gauchos played in U.S. Olympic Sports Festivals throughout the years, the last UCSB player to be involved with the national team program was Brian Shaw. Before his junior season, Shaw was a member of the Gold Medal-winning U.S. team at the FIBA World Championship in Spain. After his senior campaign in 1988, he was the last player cut from the U.S. team that competed at the Olympics in Seoul.
Before attending the World University Games Camp, however, Johnson will serve as a College Counselor at the Kevin Durant NIKE Skills Academy in Chicago from June 26-28. The Academy invites the top 35 high school basketball players in the country at the wing position and the top 20 college wing players, all of whom are exposed to a high level of instruction. In its letter notifying Johnson that he had been selected to participate, NIKE wrote, "NIKE believes that hard work and determination are the keys to success in any industry. We recognize that same determination in your approach to basketball and feel that you can be a positive addition to this prestigious event."
"The chance to be a part of that (The Skills Academy) is big time," Johnson said. "It feels good to know that my work ethic paid off with a great opportunity to learn and be a part of a special event."
Williams is excited for Johnson's opportunity and he credits his 6-foot-5 guard for earning his spot at The Academy.
"The Skills Academy will be a great experience for him," Wiliams said. "It allows him to do some hands-on teaching and to be taught by some of top NIKE skill-development instructors in the country.
"He absolutely earned the opportunity," Williams continued. "They put a huge emphasis on how hard a player works and Orlando is the hardest working Gaucho that I've been around, and that's saying something because guys like Alex Harris and Mark Hull worked tremendously hard."
In April, Johnson made himself available for the NBA Draft, but did not hire an agent. On May 8, he removed his name from the draft pool, deciding instead to return to UCSB for his senior season.
In each of his first two years as a Gaucho, Johnson has led the program to the NCAA Tournament. As a sophomore, he was selected the Big West's Most Valuable Player and in each of his two seasons he was chosen MVP of the Big West Tournament, First Team All-Big West, First Team All-District 9 and First Team Mid-Major All-American. In 2011, he set the UCSB record for points in a season with 674 and tied the record for points in a game with 39.
Season tickets for the 2011-12 UCSB men's basketball season will be available soon, but right now, fans can purchase their 2011 season tickets for the Gaucho men's soccer season. Santa Barbara is once again expected to contend for a national title and they play an outstanding home schedule that features 2010 Men's College Cup Champion Akron, as well as all of the regular Big West rivals.