Michigan junior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. could be close to returning from an ankle injury that's kept him out three straight games.

Michigan junior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. could be close to returning from an ankle injury that's kept him out three straight games.

Michigan junior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. appears close to returning to action after missing the last three games with an ankle injury.

Fresh off an 80-33 home win over Delaware State Saturday, John Beilein believes Walton Jr. is making significant progress.

"You saw we had him warm up as if he had to play (Saturday), just to see how he would feel," Beilein said. "I think we dodged a bullet because in a matter of emergency we probably would've used him. 

"He went a little bit yesterday and he's going to go today so things are looking more promising than they were last week."

Beginning with Northern Kentucky Tuesday night at Crisler Center, Michigan has just three more non-conference games before Big Ten play gets underway Dec. 30.

With just two and a half weeks left, Beilein admitted there has been conversation about shutting Walton Jr. down until league play begins.

"I think at a time we thought a little bit about that knowing last year," Beilein said. "At the same time we base that a lot on how we felt. After that SMU loss we realized we missed him in more ways than running the point guard. We thought about it. 

"If there was a lingering injury he wouldn't be playing. He's got to tell me he's pain free and yesterday he told me he was pain free. Now let's see what he's like the day after going back to back."

Although easy to compare last year's toe injury to this year's ankle issue, Beilein says the difference in approach is vast.

"He wasn't able to really practice," Beilein said. "It's where that stage was and we couldn't get it right, it was a different type of injury. The toe just, it would never heal. 

"This time, we basically shut it down and then that last couple of days he tried to do a couple things. I'm talking five minutes of practice, if it still bothers me, no you're out."


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