SHENZHEN, China – Orlando Johnson's dreamlike summer just got a whole lot dreamier.
UC Santa Barbara's rising senior from Seaside, Calif., who overcame the death of six relatives before he was a teenager, has been selected to represent the United States of America as the USA's flag bearer for Friday's Opening Ceremony of the 2011 World University Games.
"It's unbelievable," said Johnson, whose mother, Vicki Renée Johnson, passed away when he was one. "I was proud to make the USA Basketball team and to play for my country, and now to carry the flag and lead the U.S. delegation feels very special. I feel very honored."
After the death of his mother, his grandmother took Orlando in. Then, when he was six, four of his relatives died in a house fire. Following the death of his grandmother at age 11, his two older brothers put their lives on hold to raise him.
"I just hope I don't fall," joked Johnson.
"I hope that I can help bring honor to my country and hold the flag high and hold it proud," he continued. "I'm definitely looking forward to it, walking out with the rest of the athletes who are all here to compete and do our best."
Johnson began his collegiate career at Loyola Marymount University (Calif.), where he averaged 12.4 ppg., 4.9 rpg. and 2.1 apg. in the 2007-08 season. Following a coaching change at Loyola Marymount he moved closer to home and transferred to UCSB, where he averaged 18.0 ppg. as a redshirt sophomore in 2009-10 and 21.1 ppg. as a junior in 2010-11. The 2010 Big West Conference Player of the Year and 2010 and 2011 Big West Tournament MVP became the first Gaucho since 1996-97 to score in double figures in every game over an entire season when he did so during the 2009-10 season. He has led UCSB to each of the last two NCAA Tournaments, a school first.
Johnson is the third known USA Basketball athlete to lead the USA World University Games Team into the Opening Ceremonies, after Alexis Gray-Lawson (2009) and Randy Foye (2005).
Johnson and his USA teammates begin World University Games play against Mexico on Sat., Aug. 13 at 6:00 p.m. (6:00 a.m. EDT). The USA continues preliminary round play against Hungary on Aug. 14 (3:30 a.m. EDT), then faces South Korea on Aug. 15 (3:30 a.m. EDT) and Finland on Aug. 17 (6:00 a.m. EDT) and caps preliminary play against Israel on Aug. 18 (3:30 a.m. EDT). Quarterfinals will be held Aug. 20, semifinals on Aug. 21 and the finals will be contested Aug. 22.
The 2011 USA Men's World University Games Team is being coached by Purdue University's Matt Painter, who is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Cuonzo Martin of the University of Tennessee and Butler University's Brad Stevens.
In addition to Johnson, the 2011 USA Basketball Men's World University Games Team includes: 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.); Greg Mangano (Yale/Orange, Conn.); Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota/ St. Paul, Minn.); Ray McCallum (Detroit Mercy/Beverly Hills, Mich.); and Darius Miller (Kentucky/Maysville, Ky.).