Photo: L.G. Patterson/AP

Last November, Michael Porter Jr., Mizzou freshman and one-time favorite to become the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, was forced to undergo surgery on his back. He played just two minutes of college ball, and at the time, it seemed that he would miss the rest of the season recovering from the injury.

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That scenario was probably in Porter’s best long-term interests, but doctors be damned, he wants to spin his wheels before the draft. Porter told reporters today that “there’s a good chance” he plays again before this season ends. “I think doctors are going to be amazed at my progress,” he said. “I’m feeling better every day. I’m hoping the doctor feels the same way.”

Porter, however, has not yet been cleared to return to practice, and coach Cuonzo Martin said neither outcome would surprise him. Since Porter’s surgery, he’s slipped out of the top five in some mock drafts, and while some NBA execs that ESPN’s Jeff Goodman spoke to said they’d advise against Porter testing his back, an impressive showing in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments (Mizzou is currently 16-8, on the right side of the bubble) would certainly salvage Porter’s draft stock. The Tigers have seven regular-season games left before the SEC Tournament starts in a month.