Florida star forward Keyontae Johnson collapsed after a timeout in Saturday’s game against rivals Florida State and needed urgent medical attention. Johnson was lifted off the ground on a stretcher and transported to the Tallahassee Memorial for evaluation.
The Gators said he was in critical but stable condition in hospital.
Johnson had just dived before falling to the ground as the team broke the clique. Several Gators were in tears and a couple buried their faces in napkins as coach Mike White gathered his team to say a prayer.
The game continued a few minutes later, but the Gators were clearly affected by the frightening scene of seeing one of their teammates in the middle of a medical emergency.
Florida were ahead 11-3 after Johnson’s dunk, but Florida State then scored the next seven points and led 45-35 at halftime, edging the Gators 42-24 after Johnson’s collapse. The game ended in an 83-71 victory for Florida State.
“Keep praying for @Keyontae and his family. We all love him, ”White said on Twitter after the game.
Johnson of Norfolk, Va., Averaged 14 points last season, averaging 7.1 rebounds. He also led the Gators with 38 interceptions.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said Florida had the option to stop the game but Johnson’s teammates wanted to continue. “Anything they thought was in the best interests of their team, I would take it,” said Hamilton. “My administration asked me the question and I told them we would be okay with whatever they decided. I understand they wanted to play.
Like most of his teammates, Johnson tested positive for Covid-19 during the summer. Although the cause of Johnson’s disease is not immediately known, the coronavirus can lead to myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart muscle. In its most severe form, myocarditis can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and has been a documented cause of death in otherwise healthy young athletes.
The Southeastern Conference is imposing strict protocols, including rigorous heart tests, before players can be allowed to return to play after positive Covid-19 tests.