Michael Porter Jr. optimistic he'll return for Missouri this season

Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr., a projected NBA draft lottery pick who has played just two minutes this season because of November back surgery, remains hopeful of playing again in 2017-18 for the Tigers.

"There's a good chance," Porter told reporters Friday afternoon. "I think doctors are going to be amazed at my progress.

"I'm feeling better every day. I'm hoping the doctor feels the same way."

Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin told ESPN that Porter has not been cleared to practice with the team. Porter, however, said he's optimistic that he'll be cleared to practice next week after meeting with doctors.

"I'm really not sure what to expect," Martin said. "It wouldn't surprise me either way."

Six-foot-10 Porter was considered by many NBA executives as a candidate to be the No. 1 pick in June's draft thanks to his combination of size, length and skill. However, many NBA executives told ESPN they are concerned about a lingering back injury, which necessitated surgery in November.

"It depends on the medical reports," one general manager told ESPN.

Porter said he doesn't have any concerns about coming back and risking further injury, but multiple NBA executives have told ESPN it's not something they would advise because he is still likely a top-10 draft pick even if he doesn't play another college game.

Porter initially signed to play for Washington, where his father, Michael Sr., was an assistant on Lorenzo Romar's staff last season. Romar, however, was fired and Porter's father took a job with Martin at Missouri.

That led to Porter and his brother, Jontay, joining the Tigers.

Missouri (16-8, 6-5 SEC) has found a way to remain in contention for an NCAA tournament bid without Michael Jr. The Tigers, winners of three straight, have seven regular-season games remaining before the SEC tournament, which begins March 7 in St. Louis.

Said Porter: "If it were up to me, I would love to get a couple of games under my belt before tournament play."