Orlando Johnson Makes Final Cut for Team USA, Will Head to China

UC Santa Barbara's Orlando Johnson drives to the basket,
UC Santa Barbara's Orlando Johnson drives to the basket,

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara senior guard Orlando Johnson has survived the final cut.  

Johnson, a two-time Big West Tournament Most Valuable Player and two-time Big West scoring champion, has become the first Gaucho player in 25 years to make the United States National Team.  He has made it through the final cut for the team that will represent the U.S. at the World University Games in China beginning on Aug. 13.

"This is one of the greatest honors of my life," Johnson said.  "I can't remember being happier than this.  I am so proud to have the opportunity to represent this great country and I will do everything I can to help bring home the gold."

On Sunday, Johnson made the first cut, from 22 to 14, but he still had to take the next step and, in three practices, he made the final roster.

Listed on the roster are: Tim Abromaitis (Notre Dame/Unionville, Conn.); Marcus Denmon(Missouri/Kansas City, Mo.); Ashton Gibbs(Pittsburgh/Scotch Plains, N.J.); Draymond Green(Michigan State/Saginaw, Mich.); JaMychal Green(Alabama/Montgomery, Ala.); Scoop Jardine (Syracuse/ Philadelphia, Pa.); John Jenkins (Vanderbilt/ Hendersonville, Tenn.); Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara/Seaside, Calif.); Greg Mangano (Yale/Orange, Conn.); Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota/ St. Paul, Minn.); Ray McCallum (Detroit Mercy/Beverly Hills, Mich.); andDarius Miller (Kentucky/Maysville, Ky.).

"I think your strengths are going to come out in competition, and we have some very good players," said USA and Purdue University head mentor Matt Painter, who previously assisted the 2009 USA U19 World Championship Team to a gold medal. "I think we have some good point-guard play, some good, athletic wings that can shoot the basketball and then we have some good interior strength. So, I think we have balance. We do have some interchangeable parts, some guys at the three and four positions that can swing either way. We can play smaller and we can play bigger. It will depend on who we are playing against. I do think we can play a couple of different ways, and that's always a positive."

Cuonzo Martin of the University of Tennessee and Brad Stevens of Butler University are serving as assistant coaches for the 2011 USA Men's World University Games Team.

Training camp continues for the team members through, Aug. 7, with two practices each day at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and the team will depart for China on Aug. 8.

The USA will play an exhibition contest against New Century, a Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) professional team, in Huizho, China, on Aug. 11, before opening World University Games play on Aug. 13.

In all, 24 countries will compete in the international competition. The USA has been slotted into Pool D, along with Finland, Hungary, Israel, Mexico and South Korea. The red, white and blue will open play against Mexico at 6 p.m. on Aug. 13 (all times listed are China Standard Time, which is +12 hours from Eastern Time) and will then play Hungary at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 14; South Korea at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 15; Finland at 6 p.m. on Aug. 17; and Israel at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 18.

Following the preliminary round, the top two placed teams from each pool will advance to the medal quarterfinals, which will be contested on Aug. 20. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 21, and the finals will be played on Aug. 22.

Johnson is the first Gaucho since Brian Shaw in 1986 to earn the right to play for the U.S. National Team.  As a member of the U.S. team at the FIBA Championships in Spain, Shaw played a valuable part as he helped the Red, White and Blue to a gold medal.  In 1988, he was the final cut of the U.S. Olympic Team that ultimately settled for a bronze medal in Seoul. 

Johnson will be joined at the Games by teammate Greg Somogyi.  The 7-foot-3 center will be a member of the Hungarian National Team.  Somogyi has competed with the team from Hungary at the under-19 games and is expected to be a key member of the team. 

The last UCSB athlete to represent the U.S. in international competition was former women's star Kristen Mann who played for Team USA at the FIBA Championship for Young Women in Sibenik, Coratia.   

Johnson and the Gauchos will play one of the toughest schedules in school history in 2011-12.  UCSB's log will include home games against San Diego State and UNLV, as well as Big West rivals Long Beach State and Cal Poly.  For ticket information, click here.