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Family: Keyontae Johnson's collapse unrelated to COVID-19

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer
Florida guard Keyontae Johnson watches his teammates during a game against Kentucky at Exactech Arena last month.

The family of Florida star forward Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed Dec. 12 against Florida State, provided an update to his health status Wednesday afternoon, saying doctors have determined his collapse wasn’t related to a prior COVID-19 diagnosis.

"We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and well wishes for Keyontae and our entire family. We are also incredibly thankful for the medical care provided and the willingness of experts here and across the country to be involved in helping us better understand the events of December 12,” the statement, emailed by UF,  read. “University of Florida Health treating physicians consulted with other local and national experts who reviewed the relevant imaging and testing related to this case. The unanimous conclusion of all experts is that Keyontae’s medical emergency was not related to or a result of a previous or current Covid diagnosis.”

The determination was made in consultation with medical professionals both in Gainesville and across the country. Johnson was released from the hospital Dec. 22, 10 days after collapsing against the 'Noles. Johnson’s diagnosis has yet to be revealed by his family, although The Sun’s Zach Abolverdi reported Dec. 22 that Johnson was diagnosed with acute myocarditis, according to a person with first-hand knowledge. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. The coronavirus can lead to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. At its most severe, myocarditis can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and has been a documented cause of death for young, otherwise healthy athletes.

Johnson’s family has not denied the report of his diagnosis, nor have they denied Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the summer. UF had no comment Wednesday.

Over the last month, Johnson has stayed around the program in a pseudo-coach role. The statement from Johnson’s family implies he will remain in the coach role for the remainder of the season and that any further updates will come from Johnson. 

“We continue to be committed to sharing any information that could be helpful to others. Our hope is that the experts’ conclusion that this instance is not Covid-related will bring some peace of mind,” the statement continued. “Our focus now is on Keyontae’s academics and continued recovery. His resilience has been inspiring to watch. He will spend the rest of the season focused on being the best coach and teammate he can be. What comes next for Keyontae is for him to share on his own timeline.”

Despite Johnson's absence, the Gators remain in contention to make the NCAA Tournament and have won four games in a row heading into Wednesday night’s match-up with South Carolina. Florida shooting guard Noah Locke, who’s also Johnson’s roommate and best friend on the team, said having Johnson around the program following his collapse has helped the Gators persevere through the season. 

“It’s just great to have him there after seeing that traumatic event. It’s definitely helped us. It’s helped us that he’s been able to tell us some things that maybe we weren’t doing well in the game, being a coach out there and a leader,” Locke said. “I mean, it’s definitely helped us all be able to stay positive and just continue to get better.”