The Young Lion Returns: Keyontae Johnson Returning to the Florida Gators

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

“Youth is wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw

For years that quote has been laughed at and in many cases agreed to by the millions of thousands of people who have read it. Keyontae Johnson, obviously, forgot to read it because Tuesday he made the very smart, mature decision to return for his junior year at the University of Florida. He did his fact gathering about his chances to play in the NBA before deciding his better decision was to listen to his heart which was telling him to spend one more year in a Florida basketball uniform.

There is no question the NBA was like Bali Hai, calling Johnson to turn in a classwork and dorm rooms for a shot at the good life the pros offer. Had he declared for the NBA Draft, he would have likely been drafted in the last half of the second round, giving him a legitimate shot at either making a team or getting a contract to the G-League. The temptation to bolt was there, but instead of paddling off to that island of dreams, he decided the island and the dreams will still be there next year.

Announcing his decision on Instagram, Johnson said, “Dear Gator Nation, I want to thank everyone for being with me doing this decision, and I can’t wait to get back and play with my brothers again next season! We’ve got unfinished business & the Gators will be ready to go. I’m excited to keep growing on and off the court with Coach White and our coaching staff here & keep playing in front of the Rowdy Reptiles & Gator Nation! Everybody stay safe & Go Gators!”

A first team All-SEC selection as a sophomore (averaged a team-high 14 points and 7.1 rebounds per game) Johnson had eight double-doubles, six 20-point games and was the MVP of the Charleston Classic when he put the Gators on his broad shoulders for three straight games to lead UF to the tournament championship. Along the way, he shot 54.4 percent from the field and a respectable 38 percent from the three-point line.

The numbers were there. The effort was there. Rim-rattling dunks were there. Yet, there was room to improve and Johnson knew it, which is why he will return. If he improves as much next year as he did from freshman to sophomore, then he could play himself into a first round draft pick.