By Brian Robb, CBS Boston

BOSTON – Jared Sullinger was back in Boston on Friday, appearing at Hennigan Elementary School to help guide students through some basketball drills. Meanwhile, other Celtics employees joined forces with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and City Year to help make improvements to the local school.

A trim looking Sullinger enjoyed his time with the kids before reflecting on his first healthy offseason as an experienced NBA player. Sullinger struggled with conditioning throughout last year after back surgery limited his offseason training in the summer of 2013.

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“[Last year] shut me down,” Sullinger explained. “I couldn’t play until September. [Couldn’t do] full-blown basketball with contact, playing one-on-one, things like that, so I was kind of behind the 8-ball and stayed behind the 8-ball. This year, I’m in front of the 8-ball right now, hopefully going to hit the corner pocket, so we’ll see.”

The former Ohio State star spent this summer back in his home state working out with his father and a trainer. With no more health limitations holding him back, Sullinger has taken advantage to a full offseason to get plenty of reps.

“I played a lot of ball this summer between the Columbus Pro-Am and open gyms with the overseas guys that come back to Columbus. I got a lot of basketball in this summer, and it really helped,” said Sullinger.

Just how much will all the hard work lead into success for Sullinger this season? At this point, it remains to be seen. The 21-year-old averaged 27.6 minutes per game last year and wants head coach Brad Stevens to be able to count on him to play heavier minutes once the regular season rolls around. Sullinger now has more confidence in his body after making it through a full season, and that should translate well into his on-court performance.

“My biggest thing was health last year,” Sullinger said. “I think I was a little afraid at the beginning of training camp, due to my back, the contact and all of that good stuff. I was afraid what was going to happen in the middle of the season, but now I know what I can do. I know my back is going to hold up and the beautiful thing about it is that I have another year to show who Jared Sullinger can be.”

Conditioning is one thing, but Sullinger’s weight has always been a point of contention for Celtics fans.

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The power forward acknowledged that, yes, he “maybe” had dropped a few pounds this season before playfully adding with a smile, “I can’t tell you everything.”

Sullinger’s bulky body type certainly has always helped with his rebounding abilities as an undersized power forward, but there’s no doubt dropping a few pounds can only have a positive effect on the big man’s conditioning.

Sullinger’s newfound confidence should lead to heightened expectations for the big man who showed plenty of promise in year two. There are a number of trade rumors surrounding veterans on the Celtics, but the truth is that the team has to decide soon whether Sullinger can be part of the team’s future core or if they are better off packaging him with other prospects for a bigger name. That possibility came up once this summer with his name being mentioned with the Kevin Love rumors, but Sullinger acknowledged he didn’t let those whispers affect him.

“You know what, summertime I don’t pay attention to basketball, honestly,” Sullinger said. “Summertime is all about yourself, as selfish as it sounds. You try to get yourself better to go into next season, regardless of where you’re at. With all of those things going on, I think my mom, dad and brothers knew more about that situation than I did because it was in one ear and out the other.”

For now, the goal is simply to improve up a 25-win team next year to help bring a rebuilding Celtics franchise back to respectability.

‘The biggest thing is to win. Last year was tough. We lost a lot of games and I know a lot of those guys on the team and the coaching staff, we are not used to losing like that. I think we are trying to change the culture.”

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.

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