Oklahoma City Thunder select K-State’s Keyontae Johnson with 50th pick in 2023 NBA draft

Keyontae Johnson is the latest member of the Kansas State Wildcats to be picked in the NBA draft.

The Oklahoma City Thunder drafted Johnson late in the second-round Thursday night, taking the third-team All-American with the 50th pick in this year’s draft.

Johnson was one of the key pieces behind K-State’s turnaround season in 2022-23 and helped lead the team to its first Elite Eight since 2018.

After being medically cleared to return to basketball, he became the centerpiece of coach Jerome Tang’s new-look and transfer-heavy roster last season. Johnson averaged 17.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Wildcats, both of which were career highs, and he was named first-team All-Big 12 and the conference newcomer of the year.

In an anonymous draft profile reported by GoPowercat.com, an NBA scout described Johnson’s pro profile the following way, in part: “Key reminds me of Ish Wainright in the body and play style ā€” although slightly better on offense and worse on defense. Not quite as built. Does he have positional size? As a two, he has good size. As a wing, he is small. I would say he does not have major skill deficits and is a smart player.

Keyontae Johnson continues historic comeback with Oklahoma City

Johnson’s road to recovery from a serious medical episode, to Kansas State and to the NBA draft has been well-documented. While playing for the Florida Gators on Dec. 12, 2020, Johnson collapsed during a game and was later placed in a medically induced coma. He was out of basketball for nearly two full seasons before resurfacing to much fanfare at Kansas State, where he went on to his aforementioned All-American season.

“I know he smiles a lot, and he’s quiet, but he’s got this drive inside of him that he just wants to destroy that dude in front of him,” Tang said about Johnson earlier this spring. “There’s so much more space on the NBA court that … he’ll be fine.”

Johnson is the first draft pick for K-State in the Tang era and is the program’s first since Wesley Iwundu in 2017.