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Sports >  NCAA basketball

Florida’s Keyontae Johnson awaits medical clearance, hopes to play

Florida's Keyontae Johnson is shown in Jan. 2021 in Gainesville, Fla. Johnson is “patiently waiting” on medical clearance while hoping to play next season.  (Associated Press)
Florida's Keyontae Johnson is shown in Jan. 2021 in Gainesville, Fla. Johnson is “patiently waiting” on medical clearance while hoping to play next season. (Associated Press)
By Mark Long Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s Keyontae Johnson is “patiently waiting” on medical clearance while hoping to play next season.

Johnson, a junior forward who collapsed on the court in December and spent 10 days in hospitals, added Wednesday that he has decided not to enter the NBA draft.

“I am progressing & steadily making progress daily in my health,” Johnson said in a post he shared via social media. “I am patiently waiting on medical clearance. … I plan to keep working to prepare for the upcoming season. My story continues to be written & driven by God.”

The Southeastern Conference’s preseason player of the year slammed face-first to the floor seconds after coming out of a timeout during a Dec. 12 game at Florida State. Teammates, coaches, opponents and fans watched in shock as the Southeastern Conference’s preseason player of the year became a trauma patient.

His family said in early February that his medical condition was not related to a previous positive COVID-19 test.

The family did not say what doctors believe caused Johnson to crumple with no warning.

He spent two nights in a hospital before being airlifted back to Gainesville with his mother by his side. His recovery was a slow process. He was able to follow simple commands. He started breathing on his own. He chatted with friends and teammates via FaceTime.

He made his first public comment Dec. 18, thanking everyone for their prayers and support. He was released four days later, 10 days after his collapse and in time to spend Christmas with his family and then be on hand for Florida’s first practice following a two-week hiatus.

Johnson’s potential return would be a huge boost for a team that has gone through a significant overhaul in the offseason.

Guards Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis entered the NBA draft with plans of hiring agents. Shooting guard Noah Locke, forward Omar Payne, backup point guard Ques Glover and reserve forward Osayi Osifo entered the portal in hopes of finding more prominent roles elsewhere.

Gators coach Mike White also lost his top two assistants, with Darris Nichols getting the head job at Radford and Jordan Mincy taking over at Jacksonville.

White turned to the transfer portal to fill the holes, signing Charleston Southern guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr., Penn State guard Myreon Jones, Kansas City guard Brandon McKissic and Boston College forward CJ Felder.

The core of Florida’s team already included three transfers: big man Colin Castleton (Michigan), point guard Tyree Appleby (Cleveland State), and forward Anthony Duruji (Louisiana Tech). Castleton put his name in the NBA draft in hopes of getting feedback on ways to improve. He did not hire an agent and is expected to stay in school.

There’s little doubt that White upgraded his roster with the four latest transfers. Getting Johnson back would make the Gators, at the very least, a team to watch in the SEC next season.

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