Michael Porter Jr., Missouri Athletics

Michael Porter Jr. on returning this season: ‘There is a good chance’

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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.”

Wichita State’s Landry Shamet out sick against Tulane

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Wichita State guard Landry Shamet will miss the Shockers’ game against Tulane on Wednesday night as he sits out due to illness.

Dressed in street clothes for the AAC conference clash, Shamet has put up All-American-caliber numbers for Wichita State this season as he’s putting up 14.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Without Shamet in the lineup, it gives Samajae Haynes-Jones a potential shot at minutes as he’s fallen out of the rotation over the last several weeks. Wichita State is still heavily favored against Tulane at home on Wednesday but they have an important three-game stretch to close out the conference season. The Shockers have to go on the road to play SMU and UCF before closing out the conference slate with an important home game against Cincinnati.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley III out for the fourth straight game with knee injury

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Duke star freshman big man Marvin Bagley III will miss his fourth consecutive game on Wednesday night as he continues to battle a knee injury.

The 6-foot-11 freshman suffered a mild knee sprain in his right knee in Duke’s game against North Carolina on Feb. 8 as he’s missed the Blue Devils’ last three games — all wins. Bagley will miss Duke’s contest against Louisville on Wednesday as he’s also missed games against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Duke still has three regular-season games after Wednesday before the ACC tournament starts as Bagley still has plenty of time to heal and recover before the postseason begins.

Bagley is putting up 21.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for Duke this season as he’s a consensus top-five pick in most 2018 NBA mock drafts. Without Bagley in the lineup, Duke has continued to play well and win games as they’ve still had big man Wendell Carter to handle things on the interior.

 

Rick Pitino: ‘I had no knowledge’ of the violations that led to banner coming down

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Disgraced ex-Louisville head coach Rick Pitino spoke at a press conference in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon and denied any knowledge of the violations that were committed by Andre McGee, any potential NCAA violations involving the recruitment of Brian Bowen and pushed for Louisville to file an injunction against the NCAA’s decision to remove the 2013 national title banner.

“I take full responsibility for everyone I hire,” Pitino said. “To say I’m disappointed with the NCAA ruling is a gross understatement.”

“I have apologized many times. I feel awful for what happened. I’ve run a clean program all my life. [Sitting where you are], I would agree with you. It looks bad. I’ve coached for 41 years. For 35, as a head coach, nothing has come up.”

Pitino went on to say that he “hired the wrong person” when he made the decision to bring McGee onto his staff. McGee is the one that was responsible for hosting the parties and bringing the strippers and sex workers to them.

“I had no knowledge of the reprehensible things that went on in that dormitory,” Pitino said. “Did a few of [my players] partake in parties they didn’t organize? Yes, they did. That had nothing to do with an extra benefit,” going on to add that attending these parties were not the reason that Louisville won the 2013 national title.

Pitino also denied any involvement in the recruit of Bowen, a five-star prospect that committed to Louisville in a deal that was supposed to get his family paid $100,000 from Adidas.

“In 40 years of coaching, I have never been involved, directly or indirectly, in any effort to pay any money or extend any improper benefit to any recruit or recruit’s family members or representatives,” he said.

Pitino said that he has not had any discussions about coaching again or looking for a job this spring, but he did say that he does “miss it.” He also urged the new University of Louisville administration to fight this decision in court, to file an injunction and do what they can to keep Louisville from having to sacrifice a national title banner.

No other Division I basketball program has ever had a national title vacated.

“The NCAA,” Pitino said, “cannot rewrite history by taking a banner down.

John Wall is heading back to school to get a business degree

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John Wall, the former Kentucky star that helped launch Coach Cal’s one-and-done movement in Lexington, is planning on using a piece of that $207 million contract extension that he signed last July for summer school.

“I’m going back to school this summer to get my business degree,” Wall told the Washington Post this week. “That’s what I’m focusing on. I promised my dad that.”

Wall’s dad died when he was eight years old, and anyone that knows his story knows that it hasn’t been the easiest path for Wall to get from that moment to this moment.

So good for John.

Seriously.

I do believe that it is important to educate yourself, even if that education is something as simple as learning how to run a business on your own.

But I also think that, in the larger context of basketball and, specifically, the one-and-done rule, this is important to note. Wall left school as a 19-year old, made a whole bunch of guaranteed money on his rookie deal, got more guaranteed money on his first contract extension and now is working under a contract that will pay him nine figures with a crooked number in front. Throw in endorsement deals, and by the time Wall hangs up his sneakers, he could end up banking close to half a billion dollars.

That’s more than enough money to be able to pay for three years worth of classes at Kentucky to finish his undergrad degree, get a master’s and become a PhD. For Wall, that financial hit would be like the financial hit you or I take for adding chips and guac at Chipotle. (But not queso. We pretend their queso doesn’t exist.)

My point is this: The time a person has to educate themselves never ends. The time that Wall, or any professional athlete, has to profit off of their ability does, and much sooner than most think.

So the next time you decide to criticize a player for leaving school early to chase their professional dreams or because they’re just looking to get paid or because they don’t care about education, just think about this.

USC guard to leave school, turn pro

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It appears that De’Anthony Melton’s college career has come to an end.

The 6-foot-3 shooting guard for the USC Trojans announced on Wednesday that he will be leaving school. Melton, a sophomore, was caught up in the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball and has not played in a game this season.

“I have reached a crossroads wherein I have decided to focus on honing my strengths and improving upon my weakness for competition at the next level,” Melton said in a statement.

And athletic wing with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, Melton averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 boards, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals as a freshman. He is considered a potential first round pick.