Damar Hamlin’s frightening collapse was reminiscent of a similar incident, one that has taken an impressive turn in recent months. Our website specializes in collegiate sports, and the first name that comes to mind was Kansas State senior Keyontae Johnson.
Let’s explore Johnson’s story. Johnson started his high school career playing for Northview High School in Norfolk, Virginia and transferred to IMG Academy before his junior season. He played one season before transferring to Oak Hill Academy. Johnson was an unstoppable force, averaging 12.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in the EYBL Finals and scoring at least 18 points in 19 different occasions for Oak Hill. Johnson was listed as a 4-star recruit and made the ESPN Top 100 list.
Keyontae Johnson committed to play for the Florida Gators and started his career as a reserve. However, his utter determination and his incredible talent earned him the starting job for the remaining 20 games in the 2018-19 season. In the 2019 SEC tournament, Johnson averaged a double-double and was key to the Gators’ semifinal run. During his sophomore season, Johnson averaged 14 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
However, on December 12, 2020, tragedy struck. The Gators were playing the Florida State Seminoles. Keyontae Johnson finished an explosive ally-oop dunk with 16:18 left in the first half which caused the Seminoles to take a timeout. During this timeout, the television broadcast went to commercial break and when they returned, Johnson had collapsed on the court and was not responding. Johnson was rushed to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital where he was induced into a coma. After 3 days, Johnson was transferred back to Gainesville where he received more medical treatment. Johnson would not play basketball again for the Gators, but he joined the coaching staff. In 2022, Johnson was announced as an honorary starter on Senior Day and received a standing ovation before the opening tip.
On August 20th, 2022, Johnson flipped the page and began a new chapter in his story. Johnson transferred to Kansas State University. Johnson’s career has exploded into second gear, leading the Wildcats in points and rebounds per game while being second in steals and shooting 56.4% from the floor. Johnson averages 18.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Johnson has been one of the main reasons for the Wildcats’ success.
After the scary incident, Johnson’s dominance on the court has been no small feat. Prior to his injury, he was receiving NBA buzz, and there could easily be more talks about a professional career after this season. Through it all, Johnson has been an outstanding player, teammate, and coach.
@ #6 Texas: 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists in a 116-103 win
vs Nebraska: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals in a 71-56 win
vs Nevada: 28 points and 9 rebounds in a 96-87 overtime victory
@ #19 Baylor: 24 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal in a 97-95 overtime win
vs #24 West Virginia: 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists in a 82-76 overtime victory
@ #17 TCU: 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 2 steals in a 82-68 loss
As of right now, the Kansas State Wildcats are 15-2. The Wildcats are ranked 11th in the nation, and 2nd in the Big 12, only behind #2 Kansas. These two Big 12 powerhouses have an upcoming matchup on January 17th and I expect Johnson to shine in another key matchup. Keep an eye on Johnson throughout the rest of this season while he puts his name back on NBA draft boards.