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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

It won’t be Jalen Hudson.

It won’t be KeVaughn Allen.

And it won’t be Andrew Nembhard.

Small forward Keyontae Johnson will be the best basketball player for the Florida Gators this year.

Johnson wasn’t forgotten per se, but Nembhard was supposed to be the star on top of the Christmas tree of last year’s recruiting class. Johnson was supposed to be just another ornament.

Instead, Johnson will be Florida’s main threat to other teams. And that’s not to say Nembhard or any other UF player will be bad. Johnson will just be better.

Why is that?

A few things stuck out to me during UF’s exhibition against Florida Southern Tuesday night.

The first was the incredible mismatch that Johnson poses. He’s listed at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, and it shows. Take one look at him, and you’ll find he’s built like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

But he’s nimble. There was one play during the exhibition where Florida had its pace slowed in the offensive halfcourt. Johnson, seeing this, received the ball at the top of the key, sliced through two defenders like a chainsaw against weeds and proceeded to flush a violent slam dunk with his right hand.

He dropped 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting in just 20 minutes while also collecting eight boards and an assist.

The reason he’ll be such a mismatch is that he could potentially play every position on the court outside of center. But if head coach Mike White decides to employ a smaller lineup (and he will, mark my words), it wouldn’t be outlandish to see Johnson at the five.

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Johnson can push the ball up the court as the point and shoot well enough to be the two, his natural position. His cutting ability makes small forward a good fit for him, and he’s big enough to get minutes at power forward.

He’s also got speed, which makes his size nearly impossible to defend.

In the aforementioned play in which the Norfolk, Virginia, product split two defenders, he blew by both of them off the bounce.

Johnson might not be the best player on the team at the moment. But he will be, you can count on that.

And don’t just stop it there. He’ll eventually wind up hearing his name called in the NBA Draft somewhere along the road.

But first thing’s first. Johnson will work his way into the starting lineup before long, and the Gators will be better off for it.


Chris O’Brien is a sports writer for the Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @THEChrisOB and contact him at


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