UF's Johnson joins portal, hopes to play again

By: Edgar Thompson, Orlando Sentinel
Published: Monday, May 2, 2022
Florida's Keyontae Johnson on the bench next to head coach Mike White against Troy during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)
Florida's Keyontae Johnson on the bench next to head coach Mike White against Troy during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One-time Florida basketball star Keyontae Johnson wants to play basketball again, but it won't be with the Gators.

More than 16 months after a major health scare ended his playing career in Gainesville, Johnson has entered the transfer portal to explore his options.

UF doctors will not medically clear Johnson to return to the court due to continued uncertainty about what caused his collapse on the court Dec. 12, 2020, at Florida State.

At the time, Johnson was on track for a professional career and coming off an All-SEC season as a sophomore.

Doctors placed him in intensive and medically induced a coma to stabilize him. Johnson remained hospitalized for eight days and has undergone myriad tests since without doctors pinpointing the cause of the harrowing incident.

Johnson, who turns 23 this month, has two seasons of eligibility remaining. He averaged 14.0 points and 7.1 rebounds during the 2019-2020 season and was the 2020-21 preseason SEC Player of the Year averaging 16 points at the time of the FSU game.

The explosive 6-foot-5 wing from Norfolk, Va., likely will have to pass a battery of tests before a school allows him on the court.

Johnson told The Orlando Sentinel last summer he planned to play basketball again — at UF or elsewhere.

"I don't know if it will be here, but I'm for sure going to play basketball again," he said while putting on a camp for Gainesville youth.

Johnson said he had moved past the incident that changed his life. The past two seasons, he served as a quasi-coach, mentor and teammates to the Gators.

"I don't even go back to that day," Johnson said. "I just keep going, really."

Johnson participated in the Gators' Senior Day March 5 against Kentucky, even making a ceremonial start before officials stopped the game after tipoff and allowed him to return to the bench.

The Associated Press reported Johnson secured a $5 million insurance policy before his junior season because he was projected as a potential first-round NBA draft pick. The policy does not preclude Johnson from attempting to play professionally while allowing him "to reverse course and make an insurance claim," per AP.

How the policy applies to college basketball was not laid out in the report.

Johnson's decision to explore a transfer from UF comes while a sworn complaint for first-degree felony sexual assault against him remains unresolved.

Johnson has not been charged or arrested for an alleged incident in February at an off-campus party.

Gainesville-based attorney Ron Kozlowski, who represents Johnson, does not anticipate charges.

"Keyontae didn't commit a crime, didn't do anything wrong," Kozlowski told the Orlando Sentinel March 25. "That will be apparent once the facts are out."

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