Blazer of Glory

Hazel Green star taking his basketball savvy and skill set to UAB

Wonder if Auburn basketball coach Tony Barbee did any second guessing as a dramatic triple overtime game unfolded in front of him at Austin High School in Decatur on December 17?

According to Hazel Green senior Lewis Sullivan, the Tigers staff never showed interest in signing the 6-foot-7 combo forward who twice has been named to the Class 6A All-State first team.

Photo by Chris Jensen

Photo by Chris Jensen

He was also named the 6A Player of the Year for 2012-13.

“No, they didn’t’’ Sullivan said a couple of hours before posting 35 points and 18 rebounds in an 83-76 win over the Black Bears as Barbee, on site to recruit Trojans junior forward Ethan Stair, looked on from the stands.

Barbee and the Tigers would have no doubt received a strong look from Sullivan. His older brother, Frankie Sullivan Jr., was a scoring star for the Tigers who played his last season on The Plains in 2012-13 before moving to Italy and a professional career.

Instead, Lewis Sullivan signed with UAB of Conference USA in the early period. He chose the Blazers over SEC’s Mississippi State and Georgia.

“It wasn’t surprising, but they didn’t recruit him,’’ said Lewis’ and Frankie’s father, Frankie Sr. “Alabama and everybody else were behind him. He decided to go to UAB.’’

Lewis Sullivan, who called himself a “great student’’ and said he enjoys school, is qualified.

“He’s very humble,’’ Hazel Green coach Todd Jeffers said. “That helps him in the classroom.’’

Phoot by Chris Jensen

Phoot by Chris Jensen

The left-handed and sinewy Sullivan, a 195-pounder who launches 3-pointers around the perimeter while not slashing to the basket, started as a freshman after moving to Hazel Green with his family from Uniontown.

He was thrust into the state spotlight as a sophomore as he averaged a double-double en route to his first All-State selection after helping the Trojans make a run to the state championship game and a 22-13 finish.

Hazel Green lost 61-56 to Carver-Montgomery in the title game at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, but that did little to take the luster off an otherwise memorable season.

The school had not been to a state final since coach Jerry Dugan led the Trojans to the 1967 2A title when the Alabama High School Athletic Association consisted of four classes. The Trojans also made the school’s first state tournament appearance since 1993 when it was a 5A school and the format featured eight teams before the field was trimmed to four in 1994.

Sullivan averaged a double-double that season, and for an encore averaged another double-double of 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds along with 2.1 assists as a junior. The Trojans were ousted from the postseason in 2012-13 by Madison County rival Sparkman in double overtime of the Northwest Regional championship game, but Sullivan was state 6A Player of the Year after the Trojans finished 24-10.

Sullivan, the No. 6 prospect in the state according to ESPN.com, will obviously play a vital if not the key role in any success that comes the Trojans’ way. He and Stair are the only two starters that returned this season.

Photo by Chris Jensen

Photo by Chris Jensen

Jeffers said Sullivan’s court vision helps set him apart.

“He’s got an uncanny court awareness,“ Jeffers said. “He can exploit a defense when there’s an opportunity.’’

That’s something UAB coach Jarod Haase noticed.

“Lewis is a big wing with great basketball savvy and skill set,” Haase said shortly after Sullivan signed in November. “He is a tremendous passer and a very unselfish player who can also score in multiple ways.’’

The Sullivans moved to Hazel Green shortly after Frankie Sr. relocated after being laid off to land a government job alongside Ronnie Crutcher, who was Lewis’ summer league coach with sons playing for the Trojans at the time.

Lewis said his mom, Diane, asked him if he’d like to relocate as well and he said yes. Frankie Jr., who would later tell his younger brother to “stay on the right track’’ and “be your own man’’ through the recruiting process, was already at Auburn. But Diane’s brother’s kids Precious and Jaylin Page, ages 13 and 16 respectively, also moved and live with the Sullivans.

As for chosing UAB, Jeffers isn’t surprised.

“Location was the No. 1 thing,’’ Jeffers said. “He’s a mama’s boy.’’

Sullivan will talk to his parents and coaches before deciding what course of study to pursue at UAB. That can wait for now. He currently has plans to make it back to Birmingham and the state tournament final four.

“We can go all the way,’’ he said. “We’ve got the pieces of the puzzle, we just got to get on the right track.’’