It had been almost two full years since Kansas State guard, Keyontae Johnson, played in a game. This past Monday in K-State's season-opening game against Texas-Rio Grande, Johnson returned to action playing 26 minutes while logging 13 points and 4 assists in the 93-59 win.
The former Florida Gator was once considered a potential 1st round NBA talent and was voted SEC Preseason Player of the Year heading into the 2020 season. On December 12th,2020, Johnson collapsed on the floor during the 1st half of a game between Gator rivals Florida State. He was rushed to a nearby Tallahassee hospital where he spent 10 days before being transferred back to a Gainsville hospital. It would later be revealed that Keyontae was dealing with a heart issue known as acute myocarditis, which caused him to collapse.
The overview of acute myocarditis on mayoclinic.org says, "Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium). The inflammation can reduce the heart's ability to pump blood. Myocarditis can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and rapid or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Severe myocarditis weakens the heart so that the rest of the body doesn't get enough blood. Clots can form in the heart, leading to a stroke or heart attack."
The visual of any athlete going down with an injury can be frightening to watch, especially the rare gruesome injuries (Kevin Ware's leg break), but watching an athlete collapse for no apparent reason will make your stomach tie in knots.
Although he wasn't medically cleared to play, Johnson would get one final chance to suit up for the Gators as he started on Senior Day, against Kentucky, for one final tip-off before receiving a standing ovation from the Florida faithful and being subbed out. It was an awesome moment for a player who had given everything he had for the University of Florida as he kissed the floor on his way out of the game.
Keyontae would graduate from Florida in the spring of 2022 before deciding to defy the odds and transfer elsewhere in hopes of playing yet again. He chose Kansas State and new Head coach Jerome Tang as his next destination while being medically cleared in the process.
After enduring the hell of the past two years, to see KJ back on the floor is the best scene from the opening night of the college basketball season. It's yet to be determined if he will ever get back to the lofty expectations he once had prior to the 2020-21 season, but frankly, I don't think it matters if he ever does. The fact that Keyontae Johnson is back on the hardwood doing what he loves and that he is healthy enough to compete is the best story of this college basketball season.