COLUMBIA, Mo. – Michael Porter Jr.’s return could come sooner than expected.
Speaking to the media for the first time since Jan. 2, Porter, who said he has not yet been cleared to practice with contact, said that he will return to the doctor either next week or the following week. He wasn’t sure which, but the hope is to be cleared to practice fully.
The return trip was scheduled to be six weeks after his last appointment, which was on the first week of January. If that is correct, the timeline for his appointment is next week.
“I’m hoping that the doctor clears me to do everything, contact included,” Porter said. “That’s what I would love to hear, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to me to work hard, but it’s up to the doctor to tell me when to go.”
What Porter is able to do now, though, is go through strenuous workouts with Missouri strength and conditioning coach Nicodemus Christopher.
“We are jumping, running, all that stuff,” Porter said. “We are going really hard getting me ready.”
After having a microdiscectomy on his L3 and L4 spinal discs, Porter was initially expected to miss the season.
Despite the initial report, he is hopeful that he will return this season but didn’t want to put a deadline on his return. Although, with just seven regular-season games left before the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Porter said he would like to get a few games under his belt before the postseason.
“That’s how I would love to do it,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can. I’m working hard every day, and I’m hoping the doctor feels the same way.
"I feel better than I ever felt. I feel great. So there is no concern about re-injury. I’m working out, doing all of that and feeling great, so there are no concerns."
If Porter is cleared, he doesn’t think he will need much time to return to the floor. He said he’s been taking mental notes in practice and in games.
“I’m looking at the plays that we run, how we play on defense and how hard we play,” Porter said. “If, and when I am cleared to go, I can hop right back in. It wouldn’t take me very many practices to get ready to go.”
Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said one of the things that Porter will need to get back is the conditioning part of the game.
“I think the first thing, once cleared, it’s to be healthy because you still have to practice. It’s not like he went down two weeks ago, so that’s a long time of not getting up and down the court,” Martin said.
Martin said it’s hard to give a timeline on how many practices Porter would need, if cleared, before he could play in a game. As well as if there is a deadline to integrate him into the game plan.
“You always try to do what’s important and what’s best. What’s best is not always ideal for everybody involved,” Martin said. "I will make that decision, we will make that decision and decide what is best whenever that time presents itself.”
Right now, Porter, who was the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2017, is tired of the constant speculation of his return. He’s just ready to play basketball.
“I would love to play again. That was my whole reason to come to Mizzou, was to play," Porter said. "I’m having a great time watching the guys, and I think people lose focus about what’s important and that’s that our team is doing good. We are having a great year. We’ve already won 16 games, we won eight last year. I’m having a great time watching the guys, but at the same time I would love to get back and play with them."