Three Takeaways from SI’s Caleb Swanigan Profile
First, go read this Caleb Swanigan profile in SI by Luke Winn. Then, go read everything Winn has ever written because he’s brilliant.
Feature image from Purdue Sports
There were two passages that really stuck with me:
You could see that Swanigan was a little distant from his teammates last year, and over the summer that completely changed. From the Instagram profiles of teammates, to the on-court body language, to the bench celebrations, it really seems like this breakthrough made a chemistry impact.
After he told Barnes that Cal was his final decision, Barnes protested (because of basketball fit reasons, he’d be entrenched as an undersized center), they butted heads, and compromised on Michigan State. Then:
A few takeaways:
- If we’re all being honest with ourselves, Purdue “accidentally” got Biggie. To his credit, Coach Painter made it into Swanigan’s final five schools, but personal preference left Purdue behind both Cal and Michigan State. It was Roosevelt Barnes who insisted that Biggie go to a school where he never had to play center, and catered to his fitness/diet needs. Purdue was third on their list, with two solid centers (Hammons and Haas) but no solidified power forward. The basketball fit was perfect (as we all knew at the time), but the desire to play for Purdue wasn’t immediately there. Biggie, furious that his father made his college decision for him, made Barnes call Painter with the news that the #9 overall recruit was coming to Purdue.
As we’ve all come to realize, Matt Painter’s recruiting pitch appeals really well to parents but not as well to the actual recruits. Purdue made the most basketball (and lifestyle) sense for Swanigan, but Painter/Purdue wasn’t enticing enough to win the recruitment on its own.
For once, Purdue was in a “right place, right time” situation. But it puts an even greater spotlight on the post-Swanigan burning question: How likely is it that Painter repeats this recruiting victory?
- Roosevelt Barnes is a hardass drill sergeant, and Biggie Swanigan is an authentic maniacal gym rat. it’s no wonder Biggie a) butted heads with his equally-stubborn adoptive father, and b) had his work ethic mesh perfectly with Barnes’ dedication, and somehow turned into a star.
- The Swanigan story is truly incredible, not just on a Purdue-level but as a singular story in college sports.
Caleb, a 400lb middle school kid, in a family torn apart by drug addiction, was living in the devastating food desert that too often defines poverty stricken neighborhoods and shelters. His brother Carl Jr, a supremely gifted basketball player, played on an AAU team coached by a former all-star collegiate athlete (and current professional agent). After himself flaming out, Carl Jr persuaded his former coach to adopt his morbidly obese little brother.
That obese poverty-stricken kid, presented with a simple opportunity in a stable and wealthy household, turned into the best player in college basketball. And he’ll be forever known as a Boilermaker. Don’t ever take Caleb Swanigan for granted, because I’m not sure Purdue will ever see another athlete like this.