Michigan's Derrick Walton Jr. might play Tuesday

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Derrick Walton Jr.

Ann Arbor -- Slowly but surely, Michigan's Derrick Walton Jr. is working his way back to the court from a left-ankle injury suffered almost two weeks ago.

He warmed up for Saturday's game against Delaware State and was available in an emergency, coach John Beilein said.

Walton could play Tuesday against Northern Kentucky at Criser Center, but he won't start. Michigan is being extra cautious, given he missed about half of last season with a foot injury.

"Things are looking more promising than last week," Beilein said before practice Monday. "Let's see where he is."

For the first time since suffering the injury against North Carolina State on Dec. 1, Walton on Sunday told Beilein he was pain-free.

Beilein wanted to see him in practice Monday afternoon before deciding whether he'd get some minutes in Tuesday's non-conference game.

The Wolverines badly miss Walton, a junior guard, especially with last week's news that Spike Albrecht is done for his career.

Michgan had to burn Andrew Dakich's redshirt to make him a third guard, behind Caris LeVert and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who has shined, especially on defense, in Walton's absence.

Beilein said last week that he sees a scenario where Walton and Abdur-Rahkman share the floor.

'Fear of failure' gone for UM's Dakich

Walton's defense and rebounding skills are desperately needed for Michigan.

"That's where I think we missed him a great deal against SMU," Beilein said of last week's 82-58 loss down in Dallas.

Forward D.J. Wilson, meanwhile, is out of his walking boot, but still isn't ready to play on his injured right ankle.

Beilein said the injury was very similar to Walton's, and if that's the case, he should be on track to return for the Big Ten opener Dec. 30 against Illinois.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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