For the first time in nearly two years, Keyontae Johnson returned to the basketball court in a competitive game on Monday — and didn’t look too unlike the player who earned preseason SEC Player of the Year and first-round NBA draft hype in 2020.
Johnson, now a member of Kansas State after transferring from Florida last spring, hadn’t played since collapsing during a game in December 2020. On Monday, he started in the Wildcats’ 93-59 season-opening win over UT Rio Grande Valley and finished with 13 points, four assists and three 3-pointers.
“I’m feeling good, just thanking God every day for giving me the opportunity to get here and play again just staying patient,” Johnson said. “Before the game, I was a little emotional, but I knew the game was going to go so I had to keep going, just play and lay everything out for my team.”
Johnson’s first points in 23 months came on a 3-pointer with 14 minutes left in the first half, and he followed that up with another 3-pointer less than one minute later.
“Like I told the guys tonight, whether you felt you played well or didn’t play well or played a lot or didn’t play — nobody should be unhappy tonight because Keyontae Johnson played a basketball game, a real game, an NCAA basketball game for the first time in two years,” said first-year Kansas State coach Jerome Tang.
Johnson was averaging 16.0 points in the first four games of the 2020-21 season when he fell face-first to the floor coming out of a first-half timeout during the Gators’ Dec. 12 game at Florida State. He was rushed to a Tallahassee hospital, where he was stabilized before being transported to a Gainesville hospital. He was released on Dec. 22, ten days after collapsing.
Johnson wasn’t cleared to play or practice at Florida in the season and a half following the incident, but started for the Gators on Senior Day last season. He received the opening tipoff and called timeout before kneeling down to kiss the floor and being subbed out of the game.
Johnson graduated from Florida last spring and opted to play elsewhere for his final year of eligibility. He chose Kansas State in August over Nebraska, Western Kentucky and Memphis, getting medically cleared to play in the process.
Tang said earlier this month that Johnson played 31 minutes in a preseason scrimmage, and the Virginia native also played 17 minutes in an exhibition game against Washburn last week.