Levance Fields will practice live, including five-on-five drills, for just the second time Thursday and if he gets through them with no problems he will play when No. 22 Pittsburgh (19-5, 7-4) visits Marquette (17-6, 7-5) Friday at 9 p.m. at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis.
It's just seven weeks since Fields broke a bone in his left foot.
"I'm all right, and I'm looking forward to playing on Friday, as long as the foot feels good,'' Fields said. "So, everything is going as planned since the last time that I saw all you guys. It was a little sore (after the last practice). Of course, after not doing anything like that the past 5-6 weeks, you expect that.
"But it wasn't painful. It was just a little sore. Everything else is OK, because I've been in the whirlpool. Our trainer, Tony Salesi, advised me to get into the whirlpool to soak my body and make sure everything else is all right. And that helped me out. ... I knew I'd be back, but it was just a matter of time. I had to be patient at the same time, but besides a little soreness I feel pretty good.''
Fields isn't likely to start against Marquette, and his minutes most assuredly will be limited. But that doesn't mean he won't be able to make a contribution. He will practice hard Thursday and hope to come out of it in good shape.
"The morning has been good, but after we get done practicing and running it's a little sore,'' Fields said. "So, as long as I wake up (Friday) and feel good, only a little bit sore, I'll be fine. It's healed, so I don't have to worry about making cuts or anything. The doctor showed me the X-ray, and it's healed. Once that was said and done, it was only a matter of time before I came back.
"Without question, I think I would have been able to go (against Providence), but I told you all that I wanted to play in the Marquette game. I was able to ... be patient, let the bone heal, and now I'm ready to go. I'm sure my minutes will probably be limited, so that's how I'm going about it now. But I'll go out there and give whatever boost I can give to the team. But I know I'm going to play.''
Fields has been cleared to practice for about a week now, but Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has never set a date or timetable for the player's return. Now that Fields' return is imminent, the coach still is ambiguous about his playing time.
"We always wanted to go by how he feels,'' Dixon said. "There was never any date set or anything like that, and I never wanted to set a date. Then, if he wasn't ready or prepared, we would have missed that. ... We just did walk-through stuff (Wednesday) and shooting, nothing live.
"So, Levance will practice live and see how he feels. His hopes are to play on Friday, but he's only practiced once before live. So, he's a long ways away from where he needs to be, but we'll get a better look and see how he feels.''
Fields believed that he would have to deal with some soreness for a while, possibly the remainder of this season, but he only would need "a couple games'' to get back into good playing shape.
Pitt has seven regular-season games left before the Big East Tournament, so the jockeying for Conference seeing begins with the Marquette game.
"It's a big stretch for us, because we feel that we still have a chance at the regular-season title,'' Fields said. "We did a great job against Providence, but this is a big game with two ranked teams. It's at their place, where we haven't won since they came into the league, so I'm just going to help my team as much as possible and go as hard as I can to help my team get a win.
"You probably can't tell by the look on my face, but I'm real energetic. There's a lot of emotions going through right now, but I can't wait for Friday just to have my uniform back on and being on the court with a chance to get in there and do something. So, when Friday comes, I'll be extra excited, but I'm still thinking about other things right now while I'm waiting for Friday.''
According to Dixon, junior forward Cassin Diggs is still unable to practice. If he does not play again this season, he can be redshirted, Dixon noted.
"We're looking at surgery as more than a strong possibility,'' Dixon said. "We've tried different things, and it's just not coming around.''
Diggs, a 6-foot-10, 270-pound center, transferred this year from Cloud City Community College in Kansas and would still have two seasons of eligibility remaining.