Former UCSB Star Orlando Johnson Drafted 36th to Kings Then Traded to Pacers

Updated: July 3, 2012

I feel like I know Orlando Johnson personally. Covering a game last year the star hit a winner against my beloved Cal Poly Mustangs.  

This was nothing new.

The reigning Big West Player of the Year averaged 19.8 points per game as a senior, finished as the Gauchos’ all-time leading scorer, sixth all-time in three point field goals and as the only player in school history to score 500 points three straight years. 

He entered his senior season on the James Naismith Award Watch List after showing well on last Summer’s U.S. National team during the World University Games. By mid-season he was on the watch list for the John R. Wooden award and projected as high as a mid to late first round draft pick. All three accomplishments drove his name through the ranks of NBA officials and placed a stamp of approval on the 23 year-old’s future as an NBA player.

Johnson’s 6’5″ frame is bound with tremendous hops and an NBA-ready pull up game. He can get himself open with his speed and for a player of his size, rebounds well off the miss.    

The guard’s NBA dreams came to fruition last week drafted 36th to the Kings. After he was traded to the Indiana Pacers five minutes later, Johnson wasn’t phased.

According to this article by Adena Andrews of, Johnson said of the Pacers, “I got a chance to meet with their representatives. I really liked their style. I just want to get into the rotation.”

And I’m certain he will.

Considering the guards ahead of him: former Bearcat Lance Stephenson, Duke star Dahntay Jones and veteran Leandro Barbosa, that’s more than a realistic expectation. I expect the gifted scorer to make wavelengths in the Pacers’ sometimes offensively parched system. 

Johnson’s comparison to former Big West star, Lucious Harris, is encouraging. Harris spent eleven years in the NBA with four different teams. He was a catalyst off the bench as a rugged role player with an ability to hit a 15 to 20-foot jump shot. The Long Beach product’s best season came in 2002-2003 with the Jason Kidd-led New Jersey Nets, when he started 25 games and averaged 10.3 points per game. 

OJ just hopes to excel; suffering loss more than most people by the age of 13, losing his mother as an infant and then four family members the following year to a house fire. The next year after that he lost his grandmother. Basketball has been a safe haven for the Seaside, California guard, who according to UCSB coach Bob Williams, is “the hardest worker,” “coachable,” and “all about winning.”

At the euphonious center of everything are his four brothers, who according to the guard “took care of everything for me and the only job for me to do was to get my high school and college diploma.” That commitment to family is what makes Johnson’s progression into the NBA ranks so special. 

“When he’s selected,” said Johnson’s oldest brother Damon Sr,”I will look up and thank my mother and grandmother for ordering his steps, protecting and guiding him this far and letting them know that we finally made it.”