Michael Porter Jr. to miss remainder of the 2017-2018 season with back injury

The freshman was a consensus top-five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft prior to the injury.

Michael Porter Jr. motions for a basketball prior to Missouri's exhibition scrimmage with Kansas on Oct. 22, 2017.

Missouri basketball was dealt a crushing blow Tuesday as the team announced that freshman forward Michael Porter Jr. will have surgery in Dallas to repair damage to the L3 and L4 spinal disks in his back.

The projected recovery time for the procedure is likely three to four months, meaning that Porter Jr. is expected to miss the remainder of the season with the injury.

Head coach Cuonzo Martin said in a press release that the team will support Porter Jr. every step of the way in his recovery process.

“Our top priority as a program is the well-being of our student-athletes, so Michael beginning this process to be 100 percent healthy is important to all of us,” Martin said in the press release. “Our focus has been on Michael’s well-being, just like every other player in our locker room.”

Porter Jr. came to Missouri as the No. 2 player in the 2017 recruiting class, according to 247sports.com. He headlined a Missouri recruiting class that was ranked fourth in the country by 247sports.com and was expected to be the centerpiece of a Missouri team that many thought had the potential to return to the NCAA Tournament.

The announcement ended two weeks of speculation about Porter Jr.’s status, which began when, two minutes into Missouri’s opening game against Iowa State, he left the game with what the team called a leg injury at the time. The next game, he didn’t sit on the bench, something highly unusual for even an injured player to do, and he did not travel with the team for its first road contest against Utah on Nov. 16.

Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, Missouri had given little insight as to the nature or severity of Porter Jr.’s injury. After Monday’s game against Emporia State, Martin said “We’ll see” when asked whether Porter Jr. would return to the team this week for the team’s trip to Orlando for the Advocare Invitational.

Now that it’s clear that Missouri will be without its best player for the remainder of the season, the question remains whether or not Porter Jr. will return to the team for another year. Prior to his injury, bleacherreport.com had projected Porter Jr. as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, while si.com had him as the No. 4 overall pick.

After the announcement, Porter Jr. posted a photo to Instagram of him wearing a Missouri jersey with a caption quoting the Bible verse James 1:2-4 and saying, “I’ll be back.” It remains to be seen whether or not Porter Jr. means he will be back with the Tigers for the 2018-19 campaign or back on a basketball court in general.

For now, Porter Jr. said in a press release that he’s just glad for his family, his team and his fans’ support.

“I’m thankful for all the kind words and messages I’ve received from fans,” Porter Jr. said in the press release. “Those mean a lot to me. I cannot wait to be completely healthy and playing the game I love, once again.”

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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