CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Pitt guard Au’Diese Toney always feels like the basketball court is his sanctuary.
But this week, it hasn’t provided much solace, as Toney’s thoughts have often dwelled on his ailing cousin, Florida forward Keyontae Johnson, who remains hospitalized in Gainesville, Fla. after he collapsed during the Gators’ game against Florida State last Saturday.
“It’s real tough because you don’t want to wish that on nobody,” Toney said. “It could have happened to anybody. The fact it happened to one of your relatives, your cousin, your family, it’s heartbreaking. It’s shocking. Stuff like that which revolves around your family is hard to overcome.”
Johnson, the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, was rushed to the hospital in Tallahassee and later transferred to UF Health Shands in Gainesville on Monday after having temporarily been placed in a medically-induced coma.
The most recent update from the school on Tuesday said that Johnson’s condition had improved, that he was breathing on his own and had spoken via FaceTime with his teammates.
“Keyontae is in stable condition today, breathing on his own and speaking with us and with his doctors here at UF Health,” Johnson’s parents, Nika and Marrecus, said in a statement released by the school. “He even FaceTimed the team! We feel so much love and support from everyone, and we’re beyond grateful for the care and attention that Keyontae has received throughout these past several days.
“We will continue to share updates about Keyontae’s health and progress. We have seen how much people love and care for him. We hope people recognize that information that doesn’t come from us or the athletic department may not be accurate. We are working closely with Keyontae’s doctors and the UAA to provide information to everyone who cares so deeply about Keyontae and has been praying for him.”
Toney also spoke to Johnson via FaceTime, according to Pitt coach Jeff Capel and has kept in touch with his family throughout the week.
“He knew a lot that was going on because he talked to his mom on Sunday and there was a little bit of brain activity then,” Capel said. “Keyontae’s mom put the phone on there with Au’diese so they could communicate on there. He was in really good spirits about the prognosis.”
Toney said he was participating in pregame shootaround prior to Pitt’s game against Gardner-Webb last Saturday when he was told what had happened.
“It was a terrible process,” said Toney, who scored 15 points on Wednesday night in Pitt’s 70-55 win at Miami. “The day of the game we were in shootarounds and I came back and I was told, your cousin collapsed on the floor. It was devastating because he was doing so well on the court and he’s just a great person. It was heartbreaking for me. His career was in jeopardy. It’s crazy.”
Johnson was off to a good start, averaging 19.7 points and 6.0 rebounds through the Gators’ first three games. The Gators cancelled their game against North Florida on Wednesday and have yet to make a decision about their upcoming game Saturday against Florida Atlantic.
“We need everyone to continue to pray for the kid, the family, the players and the coaches,” Capel said. “It looks like this thing has turned in a positive way. From what I’ve heard about Keyontae, he’s a great young man. Not a good young man, a great young man. And you hate to see that happen to anyone. My heart goes out to him, his family, to (Gators coach) Mike White and his staff and to everyone over there. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, a coach’s worst nightmare and a teammate’s worst nightmare and I’m really glad things are turning for the positive.”