Sullivan, Tigers to Open Six-Game Homestand

Frankie Sullivan talks about his rehab and surprisingly quick return to action for the Auburn basketball team.

Auburn, Ala.--On July 27th Frankie Sullivan underwent surgery to repair a fully torn ACL in his left knee he suffered while playing in a pickup game with his teammates. On Wednesday night at the Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla., the Auburn junior guard felt strong enough to play and was allowed to see nine minutes of game time for the Tigers.

Sullivan, the top returning scorer from last year's team, was obviously limited in what he could do vs. South Florida on Wednesday, but the 6-1 guard managed to make several good plays on defense and he made a four-point play with one second remaining in the first half as he was fouled while taking a three-point shot from the wing.

"Frankie has worked extremely hard in rehab," Auburn trainer Jarod Grace said in explaining the basketball player's unusually quick comeback from a major injury. "He did rehab workouts three times a day because he has been so eager to play again."

After his first game action since last season, how did Sullivan's knee feel? "I actually felt pretty good," he said. "It surprised me." He added that he has not had pain in his knee during the rehab and that has helped the recovery process.

It surprised a lot of people that Sullivan played in any game this year with the Tigers rebuilding under the direction of first-year head coach Tony Barbee and with the guard still having a long way to go to be normal again.

Sullivan said he decided to play because he can't stand not being able to contribute. "Everything basically was up to me and my family with Coach Barbee," Sullivan said of the decision to forego a redshirt year and play at less than full speed this season.

"He is a real modest guy," Sullivan said of Barbee. "He lets you make your own decision for your own future. At the same time, I do respect his wishes about me playing or not playing."

Sullivan and the Tigers will try to bounce back from their 61-49 loss to South Florida beginning at 7 p.m. vs. Presbyterian on Saturday night. For the 3-6 Tigers it will be the first of six consecutive games at home.

Frankie Sullivan is shown in action as a sophomore.

Sullivan isn't sure how much he will play in the short term, but noted that he is encouraged. "We are just taking it game by game," he said. "I am just going with the flow. My knee has actually been feeling pretty good. I really didn't like the fact that I would have to sit out all year so I have been pushing it really hard to help my team out. We will see where it goes from here."

The guard said that he doesn't fear reinjuring his knee despite playing at less than full speed. "When I get on the court all of my problems go away," he said. "I don't even think about getting hurt."

Auburn has lost its last two games and is expected to struggle all season. "It has been real tough because I know if I was out there I could help my team out," Sullivan said. "At the same time it is a learning year for us. We have a lot of young guys. I am sure as the season progresses you will see progress coming on the team."

Sullivan has been joined in rehab by sophomore center Ty Armstrong, who also suffered a torn ACL over the summer. "We have both been pushing each other through this injury," Sullivan said. "He will be back on the court in no time. He is ahead of schedule." However, Sullivan added he isn't sure if Armstrong will be ready to play in games this season.

Commenting on his decision to play this season and not redshirt, Sullivan said, "We were just debating about it all week. I just made my mind up at the last minute to play in the game. That is why they didn't have my jersey." Instead of his No. 23 jersey, Sullivan wore 32 vs. South Florida.

Sullivan and the Tigers will take on a Presbyterian team that defeated Jacksonville State 74-70 in overtime on Wednesday. It was Presbyterian's first home game of the season as the Blue Hose improved to 3-6. Two of the losses were to ranked teams--No. 3 Kansas State and No. 11 Missouri.

Presbyterian is led by center Al'Lonzo Lance, who is averaging 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Khalid Mutakabbir, a 6-4 sophomore guard, is averaging 12.6 points per game and 6-9 forward Jake Troyli is averaging 10.6 points.

The only other basketball game between the Tigers and Blue Hose took place two years ago with Auburn winning at home by a 78-65 score.

"They have three to four guys who can really score the basketball starting with their inside guy Coleman," Barbee said. "He is 6-7, 230 and can really score inside and out. He is a really skilled player. He can handle it. He can score on the block. He can step outside and shoot it."

Presbyterian, which plays in the Big South Conference, is 1-1 in conference games this season. The Blue Hose are 4-6 overall.

"Their two guard, Mutakabbir, can really shoot the ball, and he is shooting it at a high percentage," Barbee said. "You are talking about a two guard who is shooting 58 percent from the field and 68 percent from three. Those are some high numbers for that position."

Barbee said it is good to have Sullivan back, even at less than full speed, because the guard brings mental and physical toughness to the court that the Tigers need.

Sullivan said he doesn't know when he will be back to full speed. He knows he is still limited with his mobility despite making major progress during his rehab workouts. "I have been pushing it pretty hard," Sullivan said. "For me for pushing it 4 1/2 months it has been going pretty good."

The Tigers have struggled with their perimeter shooting and Sullivan pointed out that he should be able to help the Tigers with that part of the game even though he can't use his quickness to beat defenders, something he has done the past two years as a college guard when he averaged 7.6 points per game as a freshman and 12.7 as a sophomore.

Sullivan isn't making any predictions on when he will be back to full speed. "I am just taking it game by game,"?he said. "I am just going with the flow.

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