The following excerpt comes from Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the “bible” of college basketball now in its 32nd printing. Edited by SEC Digital Network contributor Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon is a 400-page preview that features full stories on 345 Division I teams. To order a copy, go to www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 877-807-4857.
Key returning player: Frankie Sullivan (6-1, SR, SG)
Sullivan is one tough dude. In late July 2010, he underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL and missed Auburn’s first eight games of the 2010-11 season. But he came back to play the Tigers’ final six non-conference games, four of which he started. Not coincidentally, Auburn won all four of those games, including an upset of eventual NCAA tournament Elite Eight team Florida State. But Sullivan’s knee wasn’t quite right and he eventually shut it down for the season and received a medical redshirt.
Sullivan wasn’t 100 percent last season, but he was still pretty good, scoring a season-high 22 points four times and leading the Tigers in scoring, steals, 3-pointers made (60) and attempted (189) and minutes played (31.8).
“It’s typical that the year back from the kind of knee injury he had, you are only going to be 75-80 percent, and that is what you saw last year,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “Still, an 85 percent Frankie is fairly effective. But, there is no question that, two years removed from that injury, he is back to 100 percent.
“You see the speed, the explosiveness back in his legs. He was purely a spot-up shooter last year. He struggled to create like he typically can. Now, that is back in his game because he is comfortable on the knee. The strength is back. The pop is back.”
Key newcomer: Shaquille Johnson (6-5, FR, SG)
Shaquille Johnson is going to need a nickname before he leaves. The Human Highlight reel has already been taken, so someone is going to have to get imaginative. Johnson is certainly imaginative as he soars through the air for dunks. Check him out on YouTube and be prepared to be amazed and mystified.
Certainly, Derrick Williams, the No. 2 pick of the 2011 NBA draft, was mystified when Johnson bested him in a slam-dunk contest two summers ago.
Johnson, who played for Milton High School in Marietta, Ga., was another ESPN four-star prospect and he was also rated the No. 27 small forward in the class of 2012. Last season, he led Milton to the Georgia Class 5A state championship. Johnson went off for 28 points in the 5A title game.
“Shaquille Johnson’s athleticism will give us a different level of athlete that we have had on the floor since I’ve been here,” Barbee said.