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The curious case of Keyontae Johnson & where the former Florida standout may end up this year

Keyontae Johnson was the SEC Preseason Player of the Year in 2020 until his career took a scary twist. PIC: Carla Kakouris

December 12, 2020 was a scary day for Keyontae Johnson, his Florida teammates and coaches, and the college basketball community.

It’s nearly impossible to forget the games played in the thick of Covid-19. The empty stands, the cardboard cutouts, and the pumped-in crowd noise all epitomized college hoops in late 2020 well into March Madness in 2021.

Florida’s contest against Florida State in mid-December 2020 was no exception. Out of a media timeout, the teams returned to the floor. Keyontae Johnson was a bit slow to rejoin his team, and all of a sudden, sent each team into a terror when he collapsed at center court.

The Gators’ 83-71 loss in Tallahassee was a mere footnote, and attention turned to Johnson.

Keyontae was a lauded prospect for the Gators at this point. Before Covid-19 preemptively ended the 2020 season, Johnson averaged 14 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore, which made him a common selection for the SEC Preseason Player of the Year. He was well on his way to living up to those expectations in the 2020-21 campaign, racking up 16 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in the first four games of the year.

It was confirmed via his family that Johnson’s collapse wasn’t related to a Covid diagnosis before or at the time of the incident. The family still has not revealed what - if any - medical condition was the cause of his collapse in December 2020. As a potential first round draft pick, Johnson did cash out on an insurance policy he entered into before the season; it served to protect him against any financial losses he may have been subject to if he were to be injured while playing at Florida.

Now, Johnson appears closer to making a return to the court.

Jeff Goodman reported today that Johnson has narrowed his options to Kansas State, Western Kentucky, and Nebraska, with Memphis entering as a late addition.

Kansas State seems to be an interesting suitor for Johnson. The Wildcats, having come off a few straight dismal seasons, are seeming to turn a new leaf with the hiring of longtime Baylor assistant Jerome Tang. Keyontae could be a crucial part of a revitalization of the K-State program. In Nebraska, Fred Hoiberg’s Cornhuskers face a similar identity crisis; he’d likely be willing to take a gamble on a player who unquestionably has the raw talent to succeed. Maybe WKU’s Rick Stansbury is leveraging his ties to the SEC - he coached at Mississippi State for 22 years, and Texas A&M for two. And there’s no question Penny Hardaway is out to prove he can still turn a team of superstars into a cohesive program that wins championships.

Johnson has a big decision to make, and it sounds like we’ll have clarity soon.

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