The buzz about Michael Porter Jr. returning to play this season for Missouri hit a crescendo on Friday afternoon because Porter himself stepped in front of a microphone and told reporters as much.
“To me and how I feel right now, there is a good chance,” Porter said. “I think the doctors are going to be amazed at my progress.”
Porter has been cleared to return to practice after back surgery in November. He has not, however, been cleared for contact, which means he cannot yet play in games.
“My rehab therapist thinks I’m good to go with practice except for the contact part,” Porter said, adding that he will be seeing the doctor next week. “I’m hoping that the doctor clears me for everything, contact included. That’s what I would love to hear. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to the doctors.”
He also said that he has “zero concerns” about reinjuring his back, while also adding that he’s “not worried about the risk” of reinjuring himself. “I’m feeling better now than I’ve ever felt.”
Frankly, I think it would be a silly idea to rush to return to play on a surgically-repaired back while playing for free when it could end up costing him tens of millions of dollars. Porter could end up earning nine figures playing basketball. Rushing back to play in college seems silly.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to do it.
Think about it like this: Michael’s family is extremely close. There are eight brothers and sisters. His aunt coaches the Missouri women’s team, where his two older sisters have played. His dad used to be an assistant for the Missouri women’s team and is now an assistant for the Missouri men’s team. His younger brother Jontay enrolled early specifically for a chance to play with Michael for one year in college. I am sure he really, really wants the chance to get on the floor with little bro.
And that is before you consider this: Without Michael, Missouri looks like they will comfortably get into the NCAA tournament. Keep in mind, there were many high school talent scouts that believed that Michael was a better prospect and player than Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton coming out of high school. He was so good that no one realized his AAU teammate Trae Young was as good as he has proven to be.
If Michael should find a way to get healthy, in shape and shake off the rust of having been out for so long, it’s not crazy to think that Missouri would end up being one of the 10 or 15 best teams in America. They could make a Final Four in a season that is as wide open as this season is.
“If it were up to me I would love to get a couple games under my belt before hopping in the tournament to play,” he said. “That’s how I would love to do it. I’m working hard every day. I’m feeling better every day. I’m just hoping that the doctor feels the same way.”
“I’m having a great time watching the guys. People lose focus that our team is doing really good. we’re having a great year. We’ve already won 16 games, we won eight last season. At the same time, I would love to get back and play with them.”