The wait will finally be over Thursday.
Missouri star Michael Porter Jr. has played only two minutes this season, as he had to undergo back surgery following the team’s season-opener against Iowa State.
While the injury was expected to keep Porter out for the entire season, the potential NBA lottery pick was cleared to play in mid-February and is expected to return Thursday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, according to coach Cuonzo Martin.
“He could play 20-25 minutes,” Martin said, per ESPN. “It’s really how I feel, the flow of the game, and how he feels. I don’t have it in my head to say, ‘He’s going to play this many minutes, and that’s it.’ … But I’d be surprised if he played 30 minutes.
“If he’s healthy, we’re rolling. Unless the trainer or Mike says otherwise, he’s playing.”
Porter was the No. 2 prospect in the 2017 recruiting class. The 6-foot-10 forward has an elite combination of size, length and athleticism. Porter has the ability to score at all three levels, and if he proves his back is 100 percent healthy, he automatically will be in the conversation to be the No. 1 overall pick, along with Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic.
Porter’s return will make Missouri a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers went 20-11 without Porter and currently are projected to be a No. 8 seed in The Big Dance, but his return gives them the look of the top 15 team they were projected to be before the season started.
The addition of Porter should scare any teams that currently are on the one-line that could potentially see Missouri in the Round of 32, as facing an elite talent in the second round is a cruel reward for a successful season.
Missouri will play the winner of Vanderbilt and Georgia in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.