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Dick Vitale says 'don't be surprised' if Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. returns

Aaron Reiss, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Basketball

OXFORD, Miss. -- Missouri forward Jontay Porter had one of his best games of the season in Missouri's 75-69 win over Mississippi on Tuesday, but his injured big brother still drew attention.

That's because during the broadcast of the Tennessee-Kentucky game, ESPN commentator Dick Vitale said he had heard it was possible Michael Porter Jr. could return for the Tigers this season.

Porter Jr. has played just 2 minutes for MU, and the program announced in November that the elite NBA prospect was "likely" to miss the remainder of the season while recovering from back surgery.

But Vitale said that SEC Network broadcaster Tom Hart -- who was calling Mizzou's game on Tuesday -- had texted him with juicy information. According to Vitale, Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin told Hart "don't be surprised if he (Porter Jr.) plays this year."

Martin added some clarity during a postgame interview with the SEC Network.

"This week, he started working out -- not on the floor, but just doing different things with our strength and conditioning coach Nicodemus (Christopher), agility work, bouncing the ball, but nothing with practice," Martin said. "I wouldn't be shocked if I saw him on the floor. And I'm not saying that, because he hasn't practiced or anything, so don't misinterpret that, but I wouldn't be shocked.

"I know he's fighting hard to get on the floor. He's looking good, his body's great. He's actually gotten bigger, just looking at him. And he's been one of my best cheerleaders on the sideline."

When Martin spoke to reporters in a press conference after that TV interview, he seemed less interested in the topic. He emphasized that Porter Jr. has not practiced with the team -- the same answer the coach has given for weeks.

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"I didn't talk to Dick Vitale," Martin said, cutting off a follow-up question.

After Tuesday's win, the Tigers are 16-8 (6-5 in the Southeastern Conference) without Porter Jr. It would likely take time for the players to develop chemistry with him back on the floor, but graduate transfer guard Kassius Robertson said he would "love to him back."

As for when, or if, that will happen, Robertson did not know.

"You'd have to ask the trainer," Robertson said. "I'm no doctor."

(c)2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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