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Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Orlando Johnson got better while overseas

By Diamond Leung

Big West teams know all about UC Santa Barbara star Orlando Johnson, and the rest of the country should get to know him as well if it hasn't done so already.

Not only did the 6-foot-5 guard lead the conference in scoring last season, averaging 21.1 points, but also that makes him the nation's second-leading returning scorer.

Johnson withdrew his name from the NBA draft to return for his senior season and has already impressed this summer by making the USA's World University Games team where he averaged 7.3 points during the trip to Shenzhen, China.

That scoring average might not appear all that exciting, but the rest of the Big West should know that what really benefited Johnson overseas was an emphasis on his all-around game, according to the Santa Barbara News-Press.
"[World University Games] coach (Matt) Painter said he was looking at bigger things," Johnson said. "He told me, 'You did everything else -- you rebounded, you played defense, you're passing the ball ... I know you'll be able to score the ball, but it's the other things, like being a play-maker, which will get you on the team.'"

...

"They really opened his eyes to the value of defense," [UC Santa Barbara coach Bob] Williams said. "Over there, he was asked to be the stopper. As a coach, what do you think? I'm just smiling. Absolutely. All of a sudden, your best player realizes that he has the ability to be the stopper?

"I feel really, really good about what he's learned, and also about the relationship he had with the coaches and the interaction with the players from all different levels. He had an unbelievable experience."

Look for Johnson to team up with backcourt mate James Nunnally as the Gauchos look to capture their third consecutive NCAA tournament berth. Long Beach State is the favorite to win the regular-season title, but UCSB is right there,  especially with Johnson becoming an improved player.

That Johnson expanded his game wasn't the only uplifting part of his China trip. He was also selected to represent the entire American delegation as the flag bearer during the opening ceremonies of the World University Games.

As the video shows, it was quite a cool moment.