McGary better, still not good enough to return for Michigan

McGary has been a spectator since December, when McGary underwent surgery to relieve recurring lower back pain

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — The door is closed on Mitch McGary’s 2013-14 season.

It’s just not totally locked.

Michigan’s 6-foot-10 sophomore forward has been a spectator since December, when McGary underwent surgery to relieve recurring lower back pain. He suffered a back injury last August, and both the details and the timetable for a potential return have been murky at best since McGary was shut down in mid-December.

McGary began a rehabilitation workout schedule in February and said he’s feeling better, though with Michigan in Indianapolis for the Sweet 16 on Friday night, he’s running out of time this season.

"I don’t really know," McGary said Thursday when asked if there’s any chance he’d be able to play at next weekend’s Final Four should Michigan survive this weekend’s Midwest Regional. "I would love to play but as of now, I’m not. I don’t know. If we make it to next weekend, I guess you never know."

McGary said he’s made positive strides with his rehab, "going day by day … getting back to where I want to be. I’m running a lot more. My body is starting to feel sore and that’s a good thing. I’ve been working. I’m just happy for my team right now, contributing how I can."

Earlier this week, Michigan coach John Beilein said on an Ann Arbor radio show that there’s "no plan" for McGary to play again this season.

His status remains a big story because McGary would be a big help, even in a limited role. The Wolverines were dismissed by many just prior to the start of the Big Ten season when McGary chose to have the surgery but went on to win the conference regular-season title and now sit two wins from a return trip to the Final Four.

McGary averaged 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds over eight games this season before the surgery. He had a 25-point, 14-rebound game last year in Michigan’s Sweet 16 win over Kansas and scored in double figures in every NCAA tournament game until the championship loss to Louisville.

McGary said part of his rehab process has been a strict diet to keep extra weight off what was a 230-pound frame before the surgery led to inactivity. He said he’d been working on his weight and conditioning last summer before the injury.

"I was consistent with diet, gym, weightroom, staying 100 percent focused," he said. "I was at my best skill level, and I expect to be back there. It’s just a process.

"I never really got too low. I realized that I was going to have to get surgery, stay motivated to try to get healthy. Ever since then I’ve felt great — about my team and about myself. I’m in a better situation for what I’ve gone through. I don’t take anything for granted now.

"I wanted to get back to the Final Four. That can still happen and I can still be one of the leaders, just not on the court."