NEW YORK (KSNW) – Kansas State will take on Michigan State Thursday in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden.
For one K-Stater, this moment seemed impossible just a few years ago. Then, head coach Jerome Tang picked up players from the transfer portal and a fighter in Keyontae Johnson, who started his career at the University of Florida.
In December 2020, Johnson was playing for the Gators when he collapsed on the court. He was rushed to the hospital and in a coma for three days.
Johnson would stay in Florida for his senior year but could not get cleared to play. So, for his final year of eligibility, he transferred to Kansas State, where he got a second chance.
“I just had the right circle around me, just my parents, the athletic trainer at Florida and K-State. When I was going through the situation, just found the right doctors, the best doctors in the world to figure out my situation. And every doctor’s appointment I went to was getting cleared, so it’s just faith, trusting in God, just knowing He had the right path for me, just following His lead and taking it day by day,” Johnson said.
Coach Tang says it has been an honor to be in Johnson’s corner.
“Watching Keyontae continue to grow just as a player and do the spectacular things on the court has just been extremely rewarding, but nearly as watching him be thankful every day for the opportunity,” Tang said. “He doesn’t complain, and he plays video games with the walk-ons. You know, everybody in the locker room loves him. I mean, he’s just a great teammate and the thing that’s been the most reward to me to just see someone as talented as him be really thankful for this opportunity and then displayed through his actions.”
Johnson has had his best season this year. He has brought the house down in Bramlage Coliseum, and now he is ready to do it again at Madison Square Garden. Thursday night, he, along with the rest of the Wildcats, will have that opportunity.
It won’t be easy, though. Michigan State point guard Tyson Walker has shut down opposing point guards. But Kansas State point guard Markquis Nowell, a native of New York City where the game is being held isn’t worried.
“I determine how the game is going to go,” Nowell said. “I’m not really focused on what they did in the past versus other good point guards. I played in the toughest league in the country, which is the Big 12. You have all types of hall-of-fame coaches that scouted me and tried to stop me, so I don’t think that’s going to be an issue. I feel like this game is going to be Kansas State Wildcats versus Michigan State, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to win a basketball game.”
The game is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday inside Madison Square Gardens in New York City.