LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Lincoln, Neb. — There's nothing definite, but it's at least starting to sound likely that Caris LeVert will return to the court sooner rather than later.

Michigan basketball coach John Beilein said Friday that LeVert is starting to make progress in his rehab from a lower-left leg injury, including some swimming and some work on the treadmill.

The senior guard is pain-free when he walks.

The next test will be being pain-free when he runs and participates in basketball activities, including practice.

"It's healing so well," said Beilein, "so we're just really being conservative.

"We've got a whole lot more season left."

Michigan (14-5, 4-2 Big Ten) is off to a pretty good start in conference play, without their leader, who hasn't played since the Big Ten opener against Illinois.

The Wolverines continue play Saturday afternoon against upstart Nebraska (12-8, 4-3), which is coming off a surprising victory over Michigan State. LeVert is very doubtful to play in that game.

After Nebraska, Michigan gets Rutgers and Penn State, two more very winnable games.

In practice, LeVert only has been participating in some light shooting. Beilein would like him to fully participate in two practices before playing again, though he acknowledged LeVert could return in a limited role after one practice.

To start and get 30-plus minutes, he'll likely need the back-to-back practices.

Michigan has been vague with the nature of the injury, but Beilein finally did say it's not a stress fracture.

LeVert missed much of last season with a foot injury on the same left leg.

"It's not related," Beilein said. "It's just an injury."

If there's any good news about LeVert's extended absence, it's that Derrick Walton Jr. has gotten experience running the offense, and Zak Irvin has had an extended role. The same goes with Division III transfer Duncan Robinson.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has started in LeVert's place, and had one career-game offensively, and continues to be one of the Wolverines' best defenders.

LeVert's return, which could come against Indiana on Feb. 2 or Michigan State on Feb. 6, will just increase the litany of scoring options for Michigan.

For the first time, Beilein is sounding optimistic about a return, given LeVert's increased workouts.

"Which is all new, so he's progressing," Beilein said. "All good signs."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE