Big Dog v. Biggie
Debates and discussions like this are entertaining on some levels, but need to be taken with a block of salt...As we talked about on the Handsome Hour last week, the game itself has changed and tons of factors surrounding Caleb Swanigan's and Glenn Robinson's brief careers at Purdue are obviously different. BUT, these guys are two of Purdue's best basketball players; let's compare them a bit.
Glenn Robinson was Indiana's 1991 Mr. Basketball after leading Gary Roosevelt HS to a state title (one-class baketball) over Indianapolis Brebeuf. Robinson did it all for GRHS...had been on the radar of recruiting experts since he was in gradeschool and was a bluechip recruit among blue chip recruits. He had verbally committed to Purdue's assistant Coach Frank Kendrick early in high school...so signing was little more than a formality.
Caleb Swanigan was Indiana's 2015 Mr. Basketball after leading Fort Homestead (4A) to a state title over Evansville Reitz. Swanigan wasn't as versitile in high school, but could shoot from outside, was a force on the glass and could play with his back to the basket. Swanigan wasn't really a big time recruit until his Sophomore year in HS...after Purdue withheld a scholarship offer initially, Swanigan leaned toward MSU, Duke and Kentucky. He verballed to Izzo and MSU, before nearly going to Cal and finally deciding upon playing for Purdue and didn't officially sign with Purdue before arriving on campus.
Big Dog was a Prop 48 player- since he didn't meet minimum academic requirements, he had to sit out a year before he could play.
Conversely, Biggie graduated a year early and reclassified to the class of 2015...so he was a year younger than most college basketball recruits when he first played for the Boilers.
Just prior to turning 20 years old, Robinson played his first basketball for Purdue in 1992. Swanigan's Purdue career was over just after he turned 20.
Both players were tenacious rebounders immediatly upon being placed in Purdue's starting lineup, but Robinson scored over double the points that Swanigan did in their first season playing college ball.
People that don't remember watching Robinson play at Purdue have drawn comparisons between the two...but the contrast in playing styles is pretty large, honestly. Robinson was a scorer that no one could slow down. He played with big men at Purdue that allowed him to be double teamed, simply because that Purdue squad didn't have as much fire power. At the same time, Swanigan has played with Hammons, Haas and Edwards...all forced defenses to make decisions on how to stop them.
In spite of double-teams, Big Dog scored over 24 points in his Sophomore season, added 9.2 rebounds, and made 40% of his three pointers...he also nearly averaged 2 assists, 2 steals and a block/game.
Swanigan was hardly ever double teamed due to Hammons strong Senior campaign, and averaged a respectable 10.2 pts/8.3rebounds, his assists per game in that first season are nearly identical, but blocks and steals pale in comparison to Robinson. He really didn't shoot enough three pointers in his first season at Purdue to compare the two.
In his final season in gold and black, Robinson made his resounding case for National POY; he scored 30.3pts, added 10.2 rebounds. He wasn't a great defender...like Swanigan, he had trouble on the ball, when matched up on the perimeter. BUT, was a bit quicker and a better leaper (this is more of an eyeball scale than anything). I don't think either player will ever be remembered for their defensive prowess. Robinson won the Wooden Award, the BT POY Award and other POY awards following leading Purdue to the Final 8 tourney loss to Duke in 1994.
You all remember last season, Swanigan was one of the nation's leaders in double-doubles while scoring 18.5 points/game and grabbing 12.5 rebounds and dealing out three assists/game. His gritty play set the tone for Purdue, while earning Biggie B1G POY honors and a Sweet 16.
Both players talked openly that they wanted to lead Purdue to a national championship...Sadly, neither player was able to will our Boilers to that goal. Both players were feared by opposing opponents and players as they tried to figure out how to prepare for them. Neither Biggie nor Big Dog was a great defender...But Robinson's ability to score from anywhere on the court over whomever he was defended by, really separates him from Swanigan. As Aneesh said the other night, Swanigan will be remembered as a great Purdue player, Robinson will be remembered as one of the greatest college basketball players of his era (if not all time).
Both helped catapult themselves into the national sports consciousness and propelled Purdue to conference championships and high into the national polls. Robinson's #1 overall NBA pick, record-setting contract, efficient 30+ points/game average while at Purdue and National POY title, all place him in elite company in the history of the college game. Biggie will soon find his place in the NBA following a season that placed him the conversation for player of the year. There is really no question who the better college basketball player was...and for those of us who watched both of these players play the game, the debate is non-existent.
If we'd like, we can conjure up a battle between the 20 year old Biggie and 21 year old Big Dog in our mind's Mackey arena, depending on how detailed our imaginations might be...It would be a ton of fun to watch; there wouldn't be much defense, BUT the battle for loose balls and potential second chance buckets would be epic. The question is would they play one-on-one or be surrounded by their peers, also in their primes. Sadly for Big Dog, his contemporaries are all a bit older today and might not have the lift, or first step that they used to (one of them, Coach Brantley, would have to choose sides). In our imaginations; this battle, this debate, can still rage.
Swanigan has pointed at the NBA as his ultimate goal all along; his pro career might still be able to shade the opinions of many Purdue fans, as his career is potentially far from over...and Robinson never quite became the professional player that many thought he would ultimately become. Here's to that debate having real legs in a decade-or-so.
Good luck, Biggie.