Florida’s Johnson receives a ceremonial start for senior day against the UK

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Keyontae Johnson, a Florida forward, dribbled the ball several time near midcourt and handed it to an official. He then began hugging everyone around, even his opponents. After he was done, he sat down on the court and did a push-up. He also kissed the Gators logo while receiving a standing ovation.

It was an emotionally charged scene that took 15 months to create.

Johnson, who fell during a December 2020 game and hasn’t played or practiced since, was given a ceremonial start against No. 7 Kentucky on Saturday

Johnson stated that Johnson left after the Wildcats beat the Gators by 71-63 .

Johnson was present for the opening tip. Officially, he played for 10 seconds. These are moments that will be cherished for a lifetime.

He said, “This is a moment you will never forget.”

John Calipari, Kentucky’s coach, was among those who clapped and hugged Johnson when he left the game. Johnson changed into street clothes, and he was now “Coach Key” on the bench.

He said, “I’m all about fashion, so I had to put my clothes back on,”

Calipari offered Johnson to score the first goal, but the Gators decided on a short ball-handling demonstration and an exit.

Calipari stated that he felt a bit emotional because his entire life was to be in this moment, these kinds of games, and it’s been taken away from him. “But Florida is doing a great job in finding a way to honor him and his fans for all they have done.”

Johnson was among seven seniors in Florida who were honored just 10 minutes prior to the game. Johnson was accompanied by his grandparents, parents, and young daughter, as well as the Tallahassee physician who “saved me my life.” Johnson wore his No. Johnson, wearing his No. 11.11 uniform, was ready to layup lines. Johnson forgot to put his phone in his shorts during the first game, which is a sign of how long it has been since he last played in a basketball game.

Johnson stated, “I was trying get a dunk up before (the trainer came out).”

The 22-year old senior from Norfolk, Virginia is expected to go pro and seek medical clearance to play for NBA teams. A $5 million insurance policy covers him if he does not play pro ball.

He repeated Saturday the words of those who have been close to him for months: “I don’t know what (the next) step is.”

Johnson’s insurance policy was in effect five months before he fell face-first onto Florida State’s court. After breaking a team huddle during the fourth game of the COVID-19-delayed COSEA Conference season, Johnson was declared the preseason player of 2020 by the Southeastern Conference. He then became a trauma patient on December 12.

Johnson was treated by teammates, fans and opponents to emergency medical care. He was then rushed to Tallahassee’s hospital. Johnson spent 10 nights in hospital and was able to return home in time for Christmas with his family. After a two-week hiatus, he was available for Florida’s first practice.

Johnson’s parents claimed last year that their son’s death was not due to a positive COVID-19 test. They cited a team of experts who included specialists from four highly regarded schools of medicine. The family is not revealing the cause of the episode.

Johnson spent the majority of his time cheering on teammates while he was enrolled at school on scholarship. Johnson is expected to graduate next month.

The Gators spent a lot of time trying to find a way to honor Johnson at senior night. Florida coach Mike White was almost in tears when he expressed his gratitude.

“It’s a unique day. It’s an odd day. White stated that it’s a “whatever day” and you could use it in so many ways. It’s a very special day. It’s a wonderful day, but it can be really difficult.

“Obviously, Keyontae is in an extraordinary situation. He is a very special person.”