TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida coach Mike White declined to do any postgame media interviews. He wanted to get to the hospital to be near Keyontae Johnson’s side as quickly as possible.
No one could blame him.
Johnson, the Southeastern Conference’s preseason player of the year, collapsed coming out of a timeout against rival Florida State and needed emergency medical attention Saturday. Johnson was taken off the floor on a stretcher and rushed to Tallahassee Memorial for evaluation. The team said he was in critical but stable condition and later said he would remain in the hospital overnight.
Johnson’s parents were flying in from Virginia to be with their son.
“I know you’re fighting bro,” teammate Tre Mann tweeted after the game ended. “God got you.”
Johnson had just dunked in transition before he crumpled to the floor as the team broke its huddle. Several Gators were in tears and a couple buried their faces in towels as White gathered them in prayer.
Officials gave the teams time to regroup, and the game continued a few minutes later. Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said administrators twice gave the Gators the option of stopping or continuing the game — at that time and again at halftime — and said they ultimately decided to play. White let his players make the call.
Florida wasn’t the same afterward, getting outscored 80-60 following Johnson’s sudden and disconcerting exit. The 20th-ranked Seminoles won 83-71, extending their winning streak in the series to seven and their winning streak at home to 26.
“Please keep praying for @Keyontae and his family,” White posted on Twitter. “We all love him.”
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl gathered his team together after practice, told them about Johnson’s situation and asked them join an assistant in prayer. The team posted a video of it on social media.
Johnson, a 6-foot-5 junior from Norfolk, Virginia, averaged a team-high 14 points last season to go along with 7.1 rebounds. He also led the Gators with 38 steals.
He scored five points in four minutes Saturday.
“Those types of things can affect you in some adverse ways,” Hamilton said. “We’re just all hopeful and praying that he’s OK. If it affected our players in an emotional way, I can imagine what the situation was with his teammates.”
Like many of his Florida teammates, Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 during the summer. Although the cause of Johnson’s ailment was not immediately known, 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 Southeastern Conference mandates strict protocols, including rigorous heart testing, before players can be cleared to return to play following positive COVID-19 tests.