Keyontae Johnson, a star forward for the University of Florida men’s basketball team who collapsed during a game against Florida State University on Saturday, remains in critical but stable condition at a Tallahassee hospital, his team announced Sunday.
“Keyontae received terrific care on site by the FSU staff and at Tallahassee Memorial, which has worked in consultation with UF health,” University of Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement posted on the basketball program’s Twitter account. The tweet said Johnson’s parents are with him at the hospital, adding that head coach Mike White and Florida’s associate athletic director for sports health, Dan Werner, are still in Tallahassee as well.
Johnson, a junior, is among several University of Florida men’s basketball players who tested positive for COVID-19 over the summer, The Associated Press reported. The disease is known to cause prolonged health issues, including myocarditis, inflammation of the heart’s muscle tissue. As of Sunday morning, neither health officials nor representatives for Johnson had shared a cause for his collapse, which occurred early in the first half of Saturday’s game.
Johnson collapsed as he and his teammates emerged from a huddle during a timeout called nearly five minutes into the competition. He’d thrown down an alley-oop in transition on the previous play. In frightening footage from the game, Johnson can be seen falling to his knees and hitting his head on the ground just as he and his teammates reach half-court. Immediately, Johnson’s teammates screamed and motioned for emergency medical attention as he lay motionless on the floor. Players and staff on the court and sidelines for both teams were visibly distraught, some crying and gathering for prayer.
After EMTs wheeled Johnson away on a stretcher, the game continued.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, who communicated with White through administration intermediaries as the incident unfolded, said after the game that he told officials in charge he was going to leave the decision about whether to continue playing to his opposing coach. “Whatever decision he made was fine with me,” Hamilton said.
White “let his players make the call,” according to the AP. He posted a tweet asking for prayers on Saturday.
Despite canceling March Madness earlier this year due to the coronavirus, the NCAA has partnered with schools to sanction fall sports even with the nation presently in a more precarious health condition than it was in March. The NCAA does not track the total number of coronavirus cases among its athletes, but at least 6,629 athletes have reportedly contracted the virus, according to The New York Times.
In November, the University of Florida basketball team was forced to pull out of a tournament when someone in the program tested positive for the virus. Amid concerns of a potential outbreak, the University of Florida paused basketball activities for one week.
College athletics schedules have been haphazard throughout the year. Outbreaks and state restrictions barring large gatherings around the country have led some schools to start seasons and games late or cancel them entirely. The ethical concerns over unpaid athletes risking their health to support an organization ― the NCAA ― and other high-earning institutions have loomed over games since players threatened to boycott the season to secure better health protocols and compensation earlier this year. Rising coronavirus cases and deaths across the U.S. have kept the debate front-of-mind, and Hall of Fame Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski reignited the discussion this week when he questioned whether games should continue.
“I would just like for the safety, the mental and physical health of players and staff to assess where we’re at,” Krzyzewski said after Duke lost a game on Tuesday.
“We’re just plowing through this,” he added.
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