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Porter Jr. injury devastating for Mizzou with Bulls a close second

LOS ANGELES — Missouri basketball suffered a huge blow Tuesday: True freshman forward Michael Porter Jr. is expected to miss the rest of the season after back surgery.

The Bulls had to be a bit crestfallen, as well. Porter could’ve been a potential piece in the rebuild in the 2018 draft.

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Porter’s playmaking and scoring ability have been opening eyes for almost two years. He would’ve fit in perfectly with Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.

The surgery has a three-month recovery period, and there are plenty of months for Porter to show teams he’s healthy, but back surgery is always an alarming development.

By league rules, the Bulls couldn’t discuss Porter specifically, but coming from Iowa State, coach Fred Hoiberg still keeps tabs on the college game and knows how devastating this type of injury can be for a program.

“I know by rule I can’t talk about specific players, but it’s tough for any kid that has season-ending injuries,’’ Hoiberg said.

“You feel for anybody that’s going through that type of situation and hope for a speedy return for anybody going through that type of thing.’’

General manager Gar Forman had been in Europe earlier this month, reportedly scouting Luka Doncic, and sources indicated the Bulls were far along in assembling their scouting reports on Porter.

Porter and Doncic were considered locks for two of the first three draft spots.

Handled it fine

Hoiberg said point guard Jerian Grant took his demotion from the starting unit ‘‘fine.’’

The focus for Grant is to get his confidence back and get into a new rhythm with the second unit.

“[Grant is] struggling a little bit right now, so [we’re thinking about] changing up his rhythm to get him going again,’’ Hoiberg said.

“For the most part, he’s made simple plays, he’s done a good job with his assist-to-turnover. He has not shot the ball very well to this point, so hopefully this change will be good for him, and he can string some games together here and gain some confidence.

“Obviously, we’re going to evaluate things after each game. We’ll go back and watch the film, but we plan on this being a long-term change.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com