On Thursday, it was reported that Michael Porter Jr. had been cleared by his doctor to play after having surgery on his back in November. And on Friday, his coach, Cuonzo Martin commented on the possibility of Porter Jr. returning to play for the Tigers
Martin was vague in his response but did say that he will be implemented into practice beginning on Friday with non-contact drills.
“I couldn’t tell you when he’ll step on the floor, if he’ll step on the floor,” Martin told reporters on Friday alluding to playing in games.
Missouri takes on the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday night. The Tigers did beat Kentucky earlier in the season, but that game was played at home where as Saturday’s game will be at Rupp Arena. Tip off for the game is set for 8:15 PM ET and the game will air on ESPN.
Senior Jordan Barnett added that the players don’t know anything beyond the fact that he’s been cleared.
“All I know right now is he’s cleared. We’ll be excited to have him back practicing,” Senior Jordan Barnett told reporters, per Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “Right now we’re focused on Kentucky.”
Porter Jr. was the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2017 recruiting cycle and is widely projected to be a top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, even if he were to never play a meaningful minute for Missouri.
The freshman got hurt 2 minutes into his debut with the Tigers back on Nov. 10. He had surgery shortly afterwards, and it was deemed that recovery would take 3 to 4 months. Without Porter Jr., the Tigers have managed to position themselves for an NCAA Tournament bid. The Tigers enter the Kentucky game with an 18-10 record and are in a 6-way tie for third place in the SEC. Per Joe Lunardi’s latest projections, Missouri is projected to be a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Selection Sunday is set for March 11, and the tournament will begin shortly afterwards.
After Kentucky, Missouri visits Vanderbilt on Tuesday night then takes on Arkansas on Saturday, March 3 in the final game of the regular season. After that, Missouri will play in the SEC Tournament, which will be played in St. Louis. The Tigers are coming off a loss to Ole Miss in their last game.
When Porter Jr. had previously met with the media and stated that he would “love” to play for Missouri before the start of postseason play. Porter Jr.’s father is an assistant coach on the team and his young brother, Jontay, is also a freshman on the team. Porter is avergaing 9.2 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per contest this year as well.