Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. is hopeful he'll be cleared to return to practice from lower back surgery next week, providing a boost for a Tigers team aiming to reach the NCAA Tournament.
The 6-foot-10 Porter, the top prep prospect in the country last season, played in only two minutes of the Tigers' season-opening win over Iowa State before missing the rest of the season following surgery in November.
Porter averaged 36.2 points and 13.6 rebounds per game as a senior in high school in Washington, and he was a McDonald's All-American after signing with Missouri (17-8, 7-5 Southeastern Conference).
He was expected to miss the rest of this season after the procedure, called a microdisetomy, but he's hoping to be cleared to return during a doctor's visit next week.
"My rehab therapist thinks I'm good to go with practice except for the contact part," Porter said on Friday. "I'm hoping that the doctor clears me to do everything, contact included. That's what I would love to hear, but it's not up to me. It's up to me to work hard and to the doctor to tell me I'm ready to go."
Porter said he's been watching closely how the Tigers play from the bench in recent weeks, and that he would need only a few practices to be ready to return. He also said he has "zero concerns" about reinjury.
"I feel better right now that I've ever felt," Porter Jr. said. "I feel great, so there's no concern about reinjury."
Porter's injury was a staggering blow for the talented freshman, just as it was for a Missouri program loaded with excitement following his arrival and the talented recruiting class that followed him and new coach Cuonzo Martin to Columbia.
Porter signed with Missouri after originally being committed to Washington, doing so after former Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar was fired following last season.
His recovery time was expected to be between three to four months, but few expected Porter to possibly return this season.
Now the freshman is not only hoping to return, but he's also hoping to play a few regular season games to get fully acclimated before a possible NCAA Tournament appearance.
"That's how I would love to do it," Porter said.