Caleb Swanigan
Celeste Ballou -

Decision Nearing for Swanigan

by Mark Montieth Writer

The overwhelming feedback from NBA personnel is clear: Caleb Swanigan should go back to Purdue for his sophomore season. Whether or not he and his advisors agree could be revealed Tuesday evening.

Swanigan was among six players working out for the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday, but he was nearly the singular focus of media attention. Television and print reporters from Fort Wayne and Lafayette joined the local representatives to interview him on the same court where he represented the state as Mr. Basketball in the All-Star series with Kentucky a year ago.

Swanigan gave the impression last month that he was eager to be in the draft, telling reporters who cover Purdue, "If I can get drafted, I'm going to get drafted."

He was decidedly neutral on Monday, stating, "I haven't made that decision."

The bottom line is that Swanigan is bumping into resistance in his basketball career for the first time in several years.

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After leading Homestead, near Fort Wayne, to the state championship, he was named a McDonald's All-American and widely regarded as a five-star recruit, one of the top 20 in the nation. After originally announcing for Michigan State, he changed his mind and signed with Purdue. He started every game but one as freshman, and played well enough to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times and a member of the all-Freshman team at the end of the season.

He averaged 10.2 points and 8.3 rebounds while playing just 25.7 minutes per game. His bulk (247 pounds now), reach (7-3 wingspan, which is regarded as excellent) and large, soft hands helped make him an outstanding rebounder, but his inconsistent perimeter shooting and tendency to commit turnovers revealed his inexperience.

He worked out for San Antonio, Minnesota, Phoenix, New Orleans and Houston before the Pacers, and will work out in Atlanta on Tuesday.

"I thought it went well," he said of Monday's session. "It was competitive and I tried to learn as much as I could and do what the coaches needed me to do."

Regardless of his impressions, all indications from NBA front office personnel are that he should play at least another season of college basketball. He doesn't have the quickness to defend NBA players on the perimeter, the explosiveness to rebound against taller players, or the shooting touch to score away from the basket, as exposed by his 29 percent 3-point accuracy at Purdue.

The mock drafts seem to agree. He's not listed as even a second-round draft pick in any of the major mocks, and is rated 83rd overall by DraftExpress.

Some in the NBA consider him a classic tweener, as a player with a skill set best suited for playing in the low post but lacking the size and jumping ability to do so. Some, frankly, wonder if he'll ever make it to the NBA. Nearly everyone, it seems, believes he would benefit greatly from another year in college, where he can refine his skills and body.

Swanigan revealed the uncertainty of his future in the NBA on Monday when asked where teams were telling him he would best fit.

"Whatever a team needs me to be is what I'll work towards," he said.

Swanigan said he'll lean on his adoptive father, former Purdue basketball and football player Roosevelt Barnes, and Purdue coach Matt Painter for advice. The deadline for his decision is midnight Wednesday, but he indicated he could announce it Tuesday evening after talking with those two.

Contrary to his statements before the pre-draft process, he said plenty of things on Monday that would give hope to Purdue fans for his return for a sophomore season.

"I wouldn't have any problem going back to Purdue," he said. "I had a great time and a great year there."

He said he doesn't have pressing family financial concerns that could influence his decision, and
has registered for both summer and fall classes at Purdue. He also mentioned that he knows he could be a dominant college player his second time around, for a team that would have the potential to excel if he does.

So, while he's getting a taste of the NBA by working out for NBA personnel in NBA facilities, he didn't sound as if he's dead set on trying to enter that world this year.

"It's right there, but you always have to have patience and do what's best for you," he said.

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Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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