University of Alabama men’s basketball coach Avery Johnson continued to be upbeat about the chances that sophomore forward Braxton Key would be back on the court when the Crimson Tide faces Mercer on Tuesday night.

“Things are trending in that direction,” Johnson said prior to the Crimson Tide’s Sunday practice. UA will face Mercer at Huntsville’s Von Braun Civic Center in an 8 p.m. CT game that will be broadcast on the SEC Network. “It looks good as far as him being ready to go.”

Key has not played this season after preseason surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee. As a freshman, Key averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and earned Freshman All-SEC honors.

“When you have an injury, it’s not just about how you perform in practice, it’s about how you recover,” Johnson said. “So far, (Key) has had no soreness, no setbacks. We will see how he looks at practice today and if he has no issues tomorrow, then we’ll put him out there.

“He’ll still have the usual issues of coming back, so we will see how it goes. But he can help us. He’s a ball mover, not a guy who has to lead our team in scoring to contribute. He can help us with his rebounding, with playing defense.”

Alabama has been off for final exams this week and is currently 7-3 on the season. Mercer will come into the game at 6-5 after a 95-85 loss at LaSalle on Sunday.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or 205-722-0225.