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BTPowerhouse 25 - #4 Caleb Swanigan

BTPowerhouse's staff counts down the best players in the Big Ten heading into the 2016-17 season.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In the months leading up to the 2016-’17 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a new series called the 'BTPowerhouse 25,' which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.

Today's edition will take a brief look at Caleb Swanigan of Purdue, who came in at No. 4 in the rankings. Swanigan’s arrival at Purdue was definitely a bit of an experience for Boilermakers fans throughout the process. Originally one of Matt Painter’s main recruiting targets, Swanigan committed to Michigan State before opening his recruitment in the spring and switching over to Purdue shortly after. Swanigan was easily the most coveted recruit to come to West Lafayette since the Baby Boilers era.

BTPowerhouse 25 - #4 Caleb Swanigan

  • Eligibility: Sophomore
  • Career Totals: 34 games, 348 points, 282 rebounds, 8 blocks, 61 assists, 12 steals
  • 2015-16 Averages: 25.7 min, 10.2 pts, 8.3 reb, 0.2 blk, 1.8 ast, 0.4 stl
  • Positional Role: Power Forward

Swanigan wasn’t perfect in his freshman season, but he hit the ground running and started getting better as the season went on. With A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas at the five and Vince Edwards also around at the 3/4, Swanigan wasn’t forced to be the main offensive weapon and was able to ease into his role somewhat. While he occasionally disappeared in some games, he showed enough potential to create plenty of excitement for his upcoming sophomore season.

Of course it was no guarantee that Swanigan would return to campus heading into 2016-17, with the power forward flirting with the NBA Draft before ultimately deciding to return for another season in order to improve his draft stock. With A.J. Hammons now in the NBA, Swanigan is figured to play a considerably larger role this season and could be set for a breakout season this winter.

Player Strengths

One of Swanigan’s biggest strengths is his versatility. The 6’9” forward came to Purdue to play the power forward position, in comparison to other schools that mainly recruited him as a center. While Swanigan spent time at the four last year, he has the skill set to see minutes as the team’s center and now that Hammons is off to the NBA, this becomes important. Last year Hammons and Haas could split the minutes at the five, but now Haas will need someone to spell him and having Swanigan allows Painter to utilize the sophomore over a less experienced option such as Jacquil Taylor.

While Swanigan is commonly inside for Purdue, he hinted at a decent outside game at times last season. His shooting percentage from beyond the arc was only 29.2% (on 72 attempts), but he was still a big enough threat from outside that opposing defenses need to guard him from the perimeter. That of course will lure big men away from the rim and open up scoring opportunities inside for other Boilers on the court.

Of course Swanigan also is strong inside for the Boilermakers, averaging 10.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in just under 26 minutes a night. His ability to clean up on the glass is a huge asset in the Big Ten, and his inside scoring presence gives Purdue a second threat down low (joining Isaac Haas). Considering Swanigan’s ability to shoot from mid-range and three, as well as the versatility from forward Vince Edwards, if Purdue’s guards can hit efficiently from three then the Boilermakers should be fully capable of spreading the floor and creating plenty of scoring opportunities.

Areas for Improvement

Consistency and turnovers are the two main areas for improvement.

At times last season Swanigan looked like a potential game changer, while at other times he showed his inexperience and the fact that he was a freshman. One night he was scoring 27 points to help knock off Wisconsin the regular season finale, several games later he was scoring 6 points against Little Rock in a surprising first round NCAA Tournament exit.

If you look over his game log you’ll see his field goal percentage yo-yo throughout the season. For every 10 of 14 shooting performance there were plenty of dreadful shooting nights scattered throughout the season. Swanigan did manage to consistently clean up on the boards, but with Hammons no longer in the picture Caleb will need to help fill the void on offense and that means his ability to score will be even more important this year. If he continues to waver back and forth it’s going to cause some issues for Purdue offensively.

Turnovers can be detrimental for a team and last season Swanigan was somewhat loose with the ball, committing 2.6 turnovers per game (4.1 turnovers per 40 minutes) in comparison to 1.8 assists per game. His 2.6 turnovers per game led the team, edging Hammons who had 2.0 turnovers per game.

Besides turnovers he could also contend shots a bit more this season. While Swanigan has plenty of size, he recorded only 8 blocks last season in 875 minutes. In comparison, 6’3” point guard Johnny Hill recorded 11 blocks in 256 less minutes. Even Kendall Stephens had more blocks per 40 minutes than Swanigan, who only edged Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline out of players who recorded any blocks on the season.

Player Projection

Caleb Swanigan had a good freshman season for Purdue, though it could have been better considering some of the lofty expectations from the fan base. Of course with so much experience in the front court, Swanigan didn’t have to be the main guy right away and that allowed him to accrue some valuable experience and develop as a player.

Now with Hammons out of the picture, Swanigan has the chance to not only be the most prominent player on a very good Purdue team, but also one of the top players in the conference. If Swanigan improves on his freshman season, the big should be primed for a breakout year as he builds towards an eventual professional career.

If Swanigan emerges in 2016-17 it’s safe to say that Purdue will be a viable contender for the Big Ten this winter.


'BTPowerhouse 25' Rankings: