It was no surprise that injured Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. chose not to play on Monday night when the Tigers hosted overmatched Wagner.
What was a bit more eye-opening was that the nation’s most heralded freshman also didn’t join his teammates on the bench for their 99-55 victory.
Asked about the whereabouts of Porter, a Missouri spokesman told Yahoo Sports that the freshman forward watched the game on TV from the locker room because it was “easier on his leg injury than sitting at the team bench.” The Missouri spokesman said he could not clarify specifically what the injury is because he is “not privy to that information.”
Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin did not offer many more details during his postgame conversation with reporters on Monday night. Martin confirmed that Porter has a left leg injury and said he’s “not sure” if the freshman will travel with the team for Thursday’s road game at Utah.
Cuonzo Martin on Michael Porter Jr.'s leg injury: "I don't know how serious it is. I think it's day-to-day. I'm not a doctor. If I had more, I'd give you more."#Mizzou
— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) November 14, 2017
A long, athletic forward who can score at all three levels, Porter is widely considered one of college basketball’s three top NBA prospects along with Duke’s Marvin Bagley and Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton. Excitement for Porter’s college debut was sky-high in Columbia before last Friday’s season opener against Iowa State, but he logged only two minutes before leaving as a “precaution” after aggravating the leg injury.
Why was Porter able to sit on the team bench for the remainder of Friday’s game but not for any of Monday’s contest? Does Missouri’s unwillingness to reveal the specifics of his injury suggest that it’s more serious than first believed? The answers to those questions remain unclear.
Perhaps Missouri’s next game will provide some clarity since it’s a matchup for which the Tigers may need their star freshman. Utah is projected to finish in the middle of the Pac-12 this season but has historically exceeded preseason expectations under head coach Larry Krystkowiak.
That Missouri is so far winning without Porter is encouraging for the Tigers.
Hired to revive a once-proud program that finished last in the SEC three straight years under previous coach Kim Anderson, new Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin immediately made a shrewd move by hiring Michael Porter Sr. as an assistant coach. That enabled Martin to land the elder Porter’s two talented sons, Michael and Jontay, as part of a talent-rich recruiting class.
Blending his talented newcomers with the best holdovers from the Anderson era, Martin has Missouri poised to contend for an NCAA tournament berth this season. The Tigers demolished rebuilding Iowa State and small-conference Wagner, but the Utah game Thursday night represents a step up in class.
Will the Tigers have Porter on their bench? In uniform? At the moment, neither sounds especially likely.
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