A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:
KEYONTAE WILL COME BACK
We still don’t know if Keyontae Johnson will ever play basketball again. The University of Florida has some of the best doctors in the world and they still haven’t told us if they believe Keyontae can make all the way back for what will be described as a miracle comeback from a near death experience. Back on December 12 in Tallahassee, it was indeed a close call with death when a few minutes into the game with Florida State, Keyontae mysteriously collapsed on the floor of the Donald Tucker Center. Only quick and decisive action by doctors on hand that day saved his life. We were thrilled when he recovered enough to work with Mike White and the UF coaching staff to help guide the team once the SEC portion of the schedule kicked in.
Most of us have been of the opinion that coaching might be the only option remaining for Keyontae if he intends to stay involved in basketball but as Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast my friend!” There might be more than coaching in his future.
Wednesday when Keyontae took to Twitter to update his status we didn’t get anything that clarifies exactly what caused the collapse in Tallahassee. That remains private information and only if and when Keyontae and his family elect to release it will we know why he came so close to death that day. The only thing we know at this point is that Keyontae tested positive for COVID-19 last summer and that his family has stated the collapse was non-COVID related.
We’re still in the dark about so much, but Wednesday we were enlightened, not about the medical condition for which he continues to be treated, but about his plans for the future. He’s not going anywhere and he is doing everything he can to get to a point where he can play again.
In a statement posted on Twitter Keyontae said he will not enter the NBA Draft. Even with the medical issues, Keyontae was considered enough of a prospect that many mock drafts including one recently posted by ESPN had him going in the second round. He also isn’t intending to transfer out even though best buddy Noah Locke – described by some as a twin brother by a different mother – is leaving UF to play for Louisville next year. Another option might have been to return home to Norfolk where he could be close to family, but that also has been nixed.
Instead, Johnson says he will remain at Florida and continue to work diligently to regain full health. On Twitter, Johnson stated he is “patiently waiting on medical clearance” and that “I plan to keep working to prepare for the upcoming season. My story continues to be written & driven by God! Go Gators!”
If you saw Keyontae so lifeless on the court at the Tucker Center back in December, then you know what a miracle it is that he’s making progress with his health and is determined to play basketball again for the Gators. What a feel good story this next miracle would be if he’s cleared to play and can be a contributor next season. Never mind stardom. Just getting back on the floor would be a real inspiration to everyone who has kept Keyontae.
Anything more than that would feel like God shined on the Gator Nation once again.
DARRIS NICHOLS NEW HBC FOR RADFORD BASKETBALL
When Darris Nichols accepted the head coaching job at Radford University of the Big South Conference Wednesday it meant that all three of the assistant coaches who came to the University of Florida with Mike White now leading a Division I program of their own. Dusty May is the HBC at Florida Atlantic and Jordan Mincey only recently accepted the HBC job at Jacksonville University.
It’s a homecoming for Nichols, who grew up in Radford although he played collegiately at West Virginia. Nichols spent two years working for White at Louisiana Tech before coming to Gainesville where he spent the last six years. A WatchStadium.com poll of SEC coaches rated Nichols the No. 2 assistant in the league.
N0. 1 GATORS ADVANCE TO SEC TENNIS SEMIFINALS
Despite losing the doubles point, the Gators (19-2) won their 16th straight match Wednesday evening, knocking off 17th-ranked Mississippi State, 4-2, in their quarterfinal match at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Fayetteville.
Mississippi State’s top two doubles teams won their matches for a quick 1-0 lead but the Gators came back to win four of the five singles matches. Once the Gators clinched the win, the sixth singles match was suspended.
Getting wins for UF were Sam Riffice at No. 2, Blaise Bicknell at No. 4, Ben Shelton at No. 5 and Josh Goodger at No. 6.
The Gators will face Texas A&M in Thursday’s semifinals.
Other UF spring sports:
Softball: Cheyenne Lindsey provided all the offense the Gators needed with a first inning 2-run homer and Natalie Lugo and Katie Chronister combined to pitch a 3-hitter as 3rd-ranked Florida shut out Florida Gulf Coast, 3-0, in Fort Myers Wednesday evening. Hannah Adams opened the game with a single and Lindsey followed with her third homer of the year over the right field fence. Lugo (11-1, 1.34 ERA) picked up the win while Chronister picked up her fourth save with two hitless innings in relief. Next up for the Gators (33-6, 12-3 SEC) is a weekend SEC matchup with South Carolina (23-17, 2-13 SEC).
The win was the 950th of the career for Florida coach Tim Walton, whose .798 winning percentage is the highest in the nation among Division I coaches over the past 19 seasons. Walton is 950-241 overall in his career, 827-177 at Florida.
Volleyball: T’ara Ceasar was named second team All-America and Lauren Forte was selected to the third team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Women’s tennis: It was a bad day for the 11th-ranked Gators in Tuscaloosa as they dropped their quarter-final match to South Carolina, 4-1, in the SEC Championships.
Men’s golf: The 17th-ranked Gators are tied for ninth place, 11 shots behind Georgia after one round of the SEC Championships at St. Simon’s Island. The Gators are 6-over par although Joe Pagdin had a strong day, finishing 2-under (68).
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC (FOOTBALL/HOOPS) Alabama: John Petty Jr. made it official that he’s hiring an agent and declaring for the NBA Draft. Meanwhile, Joshua Primo (6-6, 190, FR) is testing the NBA Draft waters but will not hire an agent so he will be able to return to school. Primo averaged 8.1 points and 3.4 rebounds last season.
Arkansas: The Arkansas passing game took a hit when wide receiver Mike Woods announced he is transferring. Woods, who caught 32 passes for 619 yards and five touchdowns last season, averaged 19.3 per catch, which was the best of any returning receiver in the SEC. Joining Woods in the NCAA transfer portal is redshirt freshman defensive tackle Enoch Jackson, who was on the field for 17 snaps last season.
Auburn: Desi Sills (6-1, 203, JR) is transferring from Arkansas to Auburn. Sills averaged 7.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game ... Allan Flanigan (6-6, 215, SO), who averaged 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game last year, announced he will be returning to Auburn for the 2021-22 season.
Georgia: The loss of point guard Sahvir Wheeler (5-10, 160, JR) is a huge blow to Tom Crean and the Georgia basketball program. Wheeler is testing the NBA Draft waters and has also placed his name in the transfer portal. Wheeler was Georgia’s leading scorer last year at 14 per game. He also averaged 3.5 rebounds and led the SEC in assists at 7.4 per game. Wheeler’s departure means that Georgia has lost six to the transfer portal.
Kentucky: Iowa fans are in an uproar, claiming John Calipari and the UK staff have been tampering with C.J. Fredrick (6-3, 200, SO), who played his prep basketball at Covington Catholic. Frederick averaged 7.5 points per game while shooting 47.4 percent on his 3-pointers. Fredrick’s dad vehemently denied that anyone from UK had been in contact with CJ prior to his transfer announcement on Tuesday ... UK assistant Tony Barbee, once the head basketball coach at Auburn, is the front runner for the vacant job at Central Michigan.
LSU: Wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph is at the top of the leaderboard as Southern University vets candidates for its vacant HBC job … Tari Eason (6-8, 220, FR) is transferring in from Cincinnati after averaging 7.4 points and 5.9 rebounds last season.
Mississippi State: Sophomore center Quinten Post (7-0, 240, SO) is transferring out after averaging 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
Missouri: Parker Braun (6-8, 217, SO) is transferring to Santa Clara after averaging 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds last year.
Ole Miss: Former 4-star recruit Jaemyn Brakefield (6-8, 216, FR) is transferring from Duke to Ole Miss. Brakefield averaged 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game for Duke last season.
South Carolina: A.J. Lawson (6-6, 195) is going pro and hiring an agent. Lawson averaged a team-leading 16.6 points while pulling down 4.1 rebounds per game last year. He scored 1,153 points in his South Carolina career.
Tennessee: Former 4-star recruit KaTron Evans has been released from his national letter of intent. He was rated the No. 17 defensive tackle in the nation as a high school senior last year.
Texas A&M: With the departures of LaDamien Bradford and Jaxson Robinson earlier in the week, eight scholarship players have left the Aggie basketball program since the season ended back in March.
Vanderbilt: A huge loss for the basketball roster as last year’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder Dylan Disu (6-9, 220, SO) is transferring out. Disu averaged 15 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last year while shooting a very respectable 36.9 percent from the three-point line ... Jerry Stackhouse completed his basketball staff by hiring Ed Conroy and Michael Curry. Conroy is formerly a head coach at both Citadel and Tulane while Curry has been the head coach of the Detroit Pistons and Florida Atlantic during his coaching career … Cornerback Donovan Kauffman, who was in on 15 tackles and had a pass breakup last fall as a true freshman, has entered the football transfer portal.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: A friend of mine lamented the fact that Vanderbilt remains a member of the Southeastern Conference. “They’re good in baseball, women’s tennis and women’s bowling,” he told me. “They need to go to the ACC where they can play Duke, Wake Forest, Boston College and teams like that every year.” I’ve been hearing suggestions like that most of my adult life. While I can’t disagree that Vandy would probably in many ways be a better fit in the ACC or that it is a bottom feeder in nearly every SEC sport, there is a reason why Vandy isn’t going anywhere. Not soon or in the distant future. I can tell you why in one word: MONEY. The SEC distributed $45 million to each of its 14 member schools in 2019-20. While those numbers will dip because of COVID-19 when the next distribution is made, it will still be significantly more than the ACC doles out ($29 million in 2019-20). And this isn’t taking into consideration that when the football contract with CBS ends every SEC school will get a boost of $20 million additional dollars from ESPN. Vanderbilt is a private school with a hefty endowment, but it isn’t going to leave the SEC to make less money elsewhere nor is the SEC about to tell the Dores don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out. For one thing, everybody in the SEC loves those trips to Nashville not to mention the fact Vanderbilt makes for a nice homecoming opponent.