Purdue finished in a tie for third in the Big Ten last season and they have a good core returning from a team that won 21 games and had a 12-6 record in the conference. Now Matt Painter adds a high level recruit to the mix in big man Caleb Swanigan. He figures to be a perfect complement to A.J. Hammons, especially because he's so skilled offensively.
Swanigan played at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. ESPN rates him as a 5-star recruit and ninth in the ESPN 100. At 6'8", 275 (or 6'9", 250), he's played center in high school, but a move to the four is part of the reason he committed to Purdue, especially considering Hammons (7'0") and Isaac Haas (7'2") will play the five for Purdue. Either way, Swanigan was a highly sought recruit with Kentucky, California and Michigan State all offering scholarships. Swanigan actually verbally committed to Michigan State in April 2015, but decommitted and turned to Purdue. Let's take a look at his game, and how he'll fit with the Boilermakers.
His combination of size, athleticism and skill is rare. Swanigan is physical enough to establish his position, but he possesses the skill to finish with touch near the rim with either hand. Long defenders could bother him at the next level, but he uses his body so well and is a creative finisher. Both should help when he faces a longer interior defender. Swanigan can also put the ball on the floor a bit. If he catches in the mid-post, or near the free throw line, he can attack with the dribble. His driving ability is more dangerous because he can pass off the dribble and has above average vision for his size. It's not often a big man has the touch and skill to excel in those areas.
His complete offense game comes into focus with an outside jumper. If defenders sag, he can hit from mid-range with great consistency. He's not too in love with his jumper, though, and it looks like he prefers the low block. His shooting just adds another dimension to an already complete offensive game.
Areas for Improvement
He's a hard worker, so defensively he should be fine. But, what kind of defender will he be? Swanigan's probably not in the mold of a traditional rim protector, but he'll be able to leverage his size on defense. He and Hammons appear to be a perfect pairing, when/if Purdue plays big. Hammons can protect the rim and Swanigan can use his physicality to defend the paint in a different way.
Purdue finished the regular season 9-3, and made the NCAA tournament. Painter always puts a competitive team on the floor and his teams improve as the year progresses. Purdue certainly has a nice mix of veterans and talented young players heading into 2015.