Summer workouts keep former Gauchos connected with SB

Orlando Johnson vs Lebron James

Former UCSB Gaucho Orlando Johnson takes a shot over NBA MVP Lebron James while playing for the Indiana Pacers. Johnson played 63 games in the NBA during his rookie season with the Pacers.

Former UCSB standouts Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally have high expectations for the NBA offseason, and not all of them have to do with improving their game.

Fresh off their first season of professional basketball, the college teammates have set their sights on giving back to the community that they say treated them so well during their years at UCSB. Johnson and Nunnally were working out on an upper court in the Thunderdome last week with former teammate James Powell before answering questions about their summer plans.

?This community supported us a lot in the past four or five years since I?ve been here, it?s taken me in with open arms,? Nunnally said. ?We wanted to do something here especially because Julyan is from here, and Orlando and I have seen the people here. They really look highly on us and we really look highly on the people of Santa Barbara. We are really excited to do this.?

James Nunnally - Bakersfield Jam

James Nunnally averaged 10.3 points per game in his rookie season with Bakersfield, including a 33-point performance in the season finale.

Johnson and Nunnally have teamed up with Santa Barbara native and Denver Nuggets player Julyan Stone to host the Shooting Star Basketball Camp in July at Bishop Diego High School.

Additionally, the three created a scholarship for local high school student-athletes who plan on attending a four-year college. The winner of the $2,000 scholarship will be announced on July 26 at the conclusion of the Shooting Star Camp.

The primary goals of the offseason, however, will be focused on preparing for next year. Both are coming off rookie campaigns having made an impact on their respective teams.

After he was drafted as the 36th overall pick by the Sacramento Kings last year, Johnson was traded to the Indiana Pacers. He played in 63 games for the Pacers, including 12 playoff games, averaging 12.1 minutes per game during the regular season.

?It was a great experience,? Johnson said of his first year in the NBA. ?I got a chance to learn from some really great players and a chance to work with some good coaches. They really brought me along in the right way.?

Johnson, who holds UCSB?s scoring record with 1,825 career points (accomplished in three years), said that he wants to use his offseason workouts to compete for a starting spot with the Pacers next year. He has two years left on his contract with the Pacers.

According to Johnson, improving his consistency and continuing to put forth the work ethic that got him into the NBA in the first place will help him win a starting spot.

?I think my strength is that I can do a little bit of everything,? Johnson said. ?I just have to be more consistent. The best man will win the job, so I just have to get out there and work hard.?

Johnson plans to play in the NBA Summer League in Orlando that runs from July 7-12. After that, he will return to Santa Barbara to help Nunnally and Stone run their summer camp.

While Johnson is working towards a starting spot with the Pacers next year, Nunnally?s goal is to earn a spot on an NBA roster.

Last season, he played with the Bakersfield Jam in the NBA?s Development League. Halfway through the season, Nunnally saw his playing time increase significantly and ended the season averaging 10.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in 49 appearances.

Nunnally put an exclamation point on the year with a 33-point outburst in the season finale.

Orlando Johnson vs Kyle Korver

Johnson drives against Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks.

?My coach noticed something in me,? Nunnally said. ?He noticed my work ethic, and I think I just helped the team flow better. He just let me play freely and I took every opportunity and every advantage he gave me.?

Nunnally, who has already participated in three D-league mini-camps this summer, plans on campaigning for a roster spot on the Miami Heat.

?[The Heat] have a couple older guys that I could go in and learn from,? Nunnally said. ?I think they are going to give me a good opportunity to compete. It?s going to be a good summer, I feel good things coming.?

Despite his focus on the future, Nunnally has kept his ties to his past strong. He attended several UCSB games this season, and plans on working out and training in Santa Barbara over the summer.

?I just love this place and I like the atmosphere here. With the coaches and players, it?s like a family here. I like being here and it?s a good place to train,? Nunnally said after a morning workout in the Thunderdome.

Nunnally will play in the same Orlando summer league as Johnson, then will travel to Las Vegas to compete in the summer league there. Johnson, who stayed close with Nunnally during the season, wants to see his former teammate in the NBA next year.

?James works extremely hard and I think it?ll pay off for him one day,? Johnson said. ?I definitely hope he?s on an NBA roster next year.?

But for Nunnally, it?s more than a hope.

?To be in the NBA, that?s my dream, and I?m about to make it happen.?