Barbee Excited About Sullivan's Progress

Auburn men's basketball coach Tony Barbee discusses the return of guard Frankie Sullivan.

Birmingham, Ala.--As Tony Barbee returned to Birmingham for his second appearance at the annual SEC Basketball Media Day, the Auburn coach said the return to good health of one of his key players, Frankie Sullivan, has him in a good mood.

"That is why I came in smiling today because I saw glimpses of the old Frankie yesterday in practice," Barbee said. "I am excited to have him back 100 percent."

Sullivan, a six-foot-one guard, played in just six games last season before being shut down to rehab an injured knee. Even limping through those games, Barbee saw enough out of Sullivan to develop an appreciation for the guard's play.

"There is no question what Frankie brings to this team in terms of his ability to score the ball," Barbee said. "He is one of the best shooters in the country, one of the best finishers in the country.

"It is what you don't see that Frankie brings to a team that makes him special," the coach says. "He has this winning aura about him. He is a great leader, vocally and by example. He has that attitude.

"If you look at my team last year, of the few games he did play last year was the win against Florida State," Barbee said. "It was not what he did in terms of production on the floor, but it was his winning attitude.

"Whether it is ping pong or a game of cards, he thinks he is supposed to win," the coach pointed out. "That is indicative of what happened in that Florida State game last year. He stepped on that floor and he had that attitude that we are winning this game. That becomes contagious.

Sullivan is shown in game action last season.

"Having him back, along with some of the other high-level players we have added who have that attitude, those types of attributes become contagious, just like on the flip side that losing attitude can become contagious," Barbee said on Thursday.

"For us this year we have several guys who have come from winning backgrounds and Frankie is one of them. Having him back healthy is why I came in smiling to SEC Media Days."

As a freshman Sullivan averaged 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Those were solid numbers, but not satisfactory to a player of Sullivan's skills who averaged 26.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists as a high school senior in leading R.C. Hatch to a third straight state title while being named Class 2A Player of the Year.

Sullivan was MVP of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game after his senior season, leading the team to a 101-99 victory with 27 points.

He improved his numbers to 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game as a sophomore in 2009-2010. He ranked second in the SEC in free throwing shooting that season making 85 percent and was also second in steals with 1.9 per contest.

Sullivan made his first 27 free throws to start his sophomore season, a school record for consecutive makes. Last season he played surprisingly well while hobbling through six non-conference games on a bad knee while averaging 8.2 points and 3.0 assists before redshirting.

Back for a do-over as a junior, Sullivan said the Tigers will be a better team in year two under Barbee because the talent level is higher and there is more depth. "You can see progress, and not just on the court," he said. "Off the court we are bonding more and I think we are going to surprise a lot of people this year."

The Tigers will play their first exhibition game on Tuesday, Nov. 1st vs. Paine College at 7 p.m. at the Auburn Arena. Another exhibition is set for Saturday, Nov. 5th at 7 p.m. vs. Victory University.

Auburn opens the regular season on Friday, Nov. 11th at 7 p.m. vs. McNeese State.


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