College Basketball Nation: James Nunnally

UC Santa Barbara's tale of two offseasons

October, 26, 2011
Following UC Santa Barbara's second straight opening-round loss in the NCAA tournament, Orlando Johnson went back to work.

The Gauchos' star guard worked out for NBA teams before deciding to withdraw his name from the draft, attended skills academies hosted by LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and made the USA Basketball's World University Games team to earn himself a trip to China, where he was the flag bearer for the American contingent.

Backcourt mate and fellow senior James Nunnally, meanwhile, worked on his game closer to home and got stronger this offseason as well, according to coach Bob Williams.

"Orlando’s offseason was very public," Williams said. "James’ was quietly phenomenal."

That's good news for a Gauchos team that very much wants to taste NCAA tournament success, but also has a huge roadblock ahead of it again with Long Beach State picked in the preseason to repeat as the regular-season champion.

UC Santa Barbara went on a preseason tour of Canada, so really, Johnson has not had a chance to recharge his batteries. Williams said he wants to get him some rest soon.

"We have to ride this horse in January, February and March," Williams explained. "He had the offseason of a lifetime in his eyes. It was a great opportunity, and it raised his visibility nationally."

Nunnally, who averaged 16.3 points last season, doesn't necessarily play second fiddle to Johnson considering he led the team in scoring in the early going and also can put up points in bunches. Williams said that based on his offseason, he's looking for Nunnally to have another breakout year.

The Gauchos also have some newcomers expected to contribute as well, including freshman John Green and New Mexico transfer Nate Garth, who is coming off hip surgery last year.

"I like where we are," Williams said.

Orlando Johnson got better while overseas

August, 30, 2011
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.

UC Santa Barbara wins on buzzer-beater

January, 28, 2011
UC Santa Barbara was in danger of slipping further behind in the Big West standings, but came through with a win on the road against Cal Poly thanks to James Nunnally.

Nunnally's banked-in floater off a give-and-go with Justin Joyner lifted the Gauchos to a 71-70 win.

"I just tried to take it to the rack and I hoped I would either get fouled or get a good shot off," Nunnally said afterward. "I got a really good look and the defender backed-off a little bit. It was a big shot and I hope it gives us some momentum and helps us turn our season around."

Defending Big West champion UCSB remains two games behind Long Beach State and had had numerous hiccups since upsetting a ranked UNLV team on the road last month.

A clutch shot like that one was just what the Gauchos needed.

UCSB's Justin Joyner as the Old Spice Guy

January, 10, 2011
UC Santa Barbara features more than just Big West player of the year candidates Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally. In fact, reserve guard Justin Joyner does an awesome Old Spice Guy impersonation.

Chances are the senior who averages three points per game will be recognized by students on campus a lot more after this video promoting this week's home games against UC Irvine and UC Riverside goes viral.

No, the tickets to UCSB's games don't turn into diamonds, and Joyner doesn't get to ride a horse, but it's a pretty awesome commercial in its own right.

UCSB's lucky buzzer-beating reverse layup

January, 3, 2011
Big West favorite UC Santa Barbara hasn't gotten off to a great start with the conference season, losing to Long Beach State in the opener and then needing overtime to beat NAIA Fresno Pacific three days later.

To send the game into overtime, the Gauchos got a break. They put the ball in the hands of Orlando Johnson to try to win the game with a 3-pointer, and former walk-on Jordan Weiner was there to make something of nothing.

"I saw Orlando release the ball and thought it might be short," Weiner said in a statement. "I just happened to be in the right place and didn't really have time to think about what to do. It was basically instinct. I knew I had to get a shot off fast."

The little scoop shot might be just what the Gauchos need, as they're learning they can't ride just on the shoulders of Johnson and leading scorer James Nunnally.

UC Santa Barbara seemed to have things going after winning at UNLV last month, but has since gotten blown out at San Diego State and lost by 16 at home to Long Beach State.

Weiner's shot wasn't exactly Lorenzo Charles dunking off an air ball to win the national title for North Carolina State and Jim Valvano, but maybe a little luck is just what the Gauchos need to get back on track.

James Nunnally helps UCSB upset UNLV

December, 16, 2010
UC Santa Barbara guard James Nunnally didn't even participate in the pregame shootaround and sat out a couple days of practice earlier in the week with a tweaked ankle.

But on the road against 22nd-ranked UNLV, Nunnally came through with 23 points and sank six clutch free throws down the stretch to help the Gauchos pull off the 68-62 upset.

"He's just playing very confidently," UC Santa Barbara coach Bob Williams said by phone late Wednesday night. "There's nobody I'd rather have at the foul line."

Reigning Big West player of the year Orlando Johnson was held to 12 points, but also hauled in 15 rebounds. This season, it's been Nunnally leading the team in scoring as he entered the game averaging 21.9 points to Johnson's 21.4.

"He’s not a sidekick to anybody," Williams said of Nunnally, who was 7-of-12 from the field and played 33 minutes on the bad ankle.

While UCSB shot 50 percent, the Gauchos limited UNLV to 29 percent shooting. That includes a putrid 6-of-29 from 3-point range, with Tre'Von Willis (1-of-7) struggling the most from beyond the arc while making his first start of the season.

UC Santa Barbara is now riding high heading into Saturday's road showdown against unbeaten San Diego State. The school's sports information department can't find any record of having previously played back-to-back road games against ranked teams.

Williams said he believes UNLV and San Diego State are Sweet 16-caliber teams. Of course, his team wouldn't mind another signature nonconference win against a Mountain West Conference team as it hopes to get back to the NCAA tournament.

"We told the [players] there’s an opportunity for us," Williams said.

On Wednesday night in Vegas, it was an opportunity not wasted.