Santa Barbara is one of the more beautiful cities in America. Nestled on California’s shoreline, north of Los Angeles, “The American Riviera” has some of the best beaches in the state. The city is also home to the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB), whose campus is literally located right on the beach. For many students there, the beach is their second home right behind their dorm rooms. However, for Orlando Johnson, the shooting guard for the UCSB Gauchos, the beach is an afterthought; his second home is the team’s home arena.
Johnson has developed a reputation over the last few years as being one of the hardest workers in college basketball. Coming out of high school, he was a lightly recruited player, earning only two stars from Rivals.com. He ended up signing with Loyola Marymount, but when his coach was fired after his freshman year, Johnson transferred to UCSB. Upon transferring he was required to sit out a year, and during that season really began to apply himself to the game of basketball.
“Sitting out a year really helped a lot,” says Johnson. “I watched a lot of film, and I had the chance to be in the gym a lot. I really had a chance to just work on my game. Knowing that I wasn’t going to play I felt like that year allowed me to grow in all aspects of my game, mentally and physically.
“I got stronger, quicker, I could jump higher, shot better. It really gave me a chance to learn the game of basketball because I played so many sports growing up. I never really just focused on basketball, so that year I definitely learned a lot of things I didn’t know before that year when it was my sole focus.”
While Johnson’s work ethic began to show during the year he sat out, it really began during his childhood. Growing up, Johnson lost six members of his family, and he was raised by his two brothers Jamelle and Robby. He says they instilled in him the idea that he not only had to work harder than the next person, but also the best person. And since arriving at UCSB, he has personified that idea.
In his first season in Santa Barbara, Johnson averaged 18.0 points and 5.4 rebounds while helping lead the Gauchos to the NCAA Tournament. This past season, Johnson averaged 21.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while again leading his team to the NCAA Tournament, losing to Florida in the first round. After the year he was named a First Team All-Big West selection, a Mid Major All-American, and he won the Big West Tournament MVP award for the second straight year. Johnson’s first two seasons in Santa Barbara have been quite impressive, but his redshirt senior season has the potential to be great – potential was developed over an eventful summer.