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Florida’s Keyontae Johnson is ‘smiling and laughing’

The prognosis for the Gator basketball player who collapsed on the court is “trending in the right direction,” athletic director Scott Stricklin says.
Florida forward Keyontae Johnson celebrates against Lynn during a game on Oct. 29, 2019, in Gainesville.
Florida forward Keyontae Johnson celebrates against Lynn during a game on Oct. 29, 2019, in Gainesville. [ MATT STAMEY | AP ]
Published Dec. 17, 2020

GAINESVILLE — Florida forward Keyontae Johnson’s prognosis is “trending in the right direction, but we still have a lot of questions,” the school’s athletic director said Wednesday.

Scott Stricklin told WRUF radio in Gainesville that Johnson continues to make progress after collapsing on the court during a game at Florida State. Stricklin visited Johnson at UF Health on Tuesday afternoon.

“He was actually awake. He was actually sitting up in a chair,” Stricklin said. “You could tell he’s still been sedated, so he was still a little groggy. But he thanked me for coming by. It was good to see him and sitting up. He had family in there, his parents and others.”

Stricklin said he has received even better news since regarding Johnson’s recovery.

“I’m told he’s even progressed a lot since then, that he’s having good conversations with his doctors, with his coaches,” Stricklin said. “He’s smiling and laughing, still undergoing more tests. I think the tests that have gotten back so far have been positive from a medical standpoint.

“His prognosis seems to be trending in the right direction, but we still have a lot of questions. The medical folks have a lot of questions they want to make sure they get answered.”

Johnson crumpled to the floor coming out a timeout Saturday and received emergency medical attention. The Southeastern Conference’s preseason player of the year was moved to a stretcher and carried to a waiting ambulance as teammates, coaches, staff, fans and others watched in disbelief.

He spent two nights at Tallahassee Memorial before being transferred to Gainesville via helicopter with his mother by his side.

In a statement posted Tuesday on the Gator basketball team’s Twitter account, Nika and Marrecus Johnson revealed that their son was “in stable condition” and “breathing on his own and speaking with us and with his doctors here at UF Health.”

Like many of his Florida teammates, Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 during the summer. Although the cause of Johnson’s collapse has not been revealed, the coronavirus can lead to myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart muscle. At its most severe, myocarditis can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and has been a documented cause of death for young, otherwise healthy athletes.

The SEC mandates strict protocols, including rigorous heart testing, before players can be cleared to return to play following positive COVID-19 tests.

“The one thing I told Key when I saw him yesterday is he has no idea the number of people who have been lifting him up in prayer and sending along good thoughts,” said Stricklin, who also praised FSU’s medical team and athletics department. “He needed to know how much he was loved, not just by Gators, I mean people all over the sporting community in the state of Florida and beyond have really lifted him up.”

The Gators postponed a home game against North Florida on Wednesday and are scheduled to host Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

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By MARK LONG