There’s no secret what the plan in West Lafayette, Indiana is when their team takes the court to face off against anybody. They’ve got two human beings in the post that are likely bigger than anybody who attends your university, and they plan on feeding them the rock. Along with his front-court mate Isaac Haas, sophomore big man Caleb Swanigan has started this 2016-17’ season with the Purdue Boilermakers out with a couple of huge performances.
Of course, against McNeese State on Friday night in their opener, Swanigan went nuts and finished with 23 points, 20 rebounds and 6 assists. He’s only the third player since 2006 to finish with a line of 20+, 20+ and 5+ in a single game. The other two were a couple of guys named Blake Griffin and Ben Simmons, maybe you’ve heard of them. When the competition took a seismic leap, his performance only took a minor dip as he finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists on 8-13 shooting against Villanova this past Monday night.
This is what Purdue fans thought they might be getting when Swanigan withdrew from the NBA Draft this past summer to return to West Lafayette. It’s very possible, however, that the product they got was much better than what they had imagined. Swanigan has certainly trimmed down his frame and now looks like nothing less than an unstoppable presence down low. He’s listed at 6’9”, 250 pounds now as compared to when he was listed at 260 when he committed to Purdue. Ten pounds may not seem like much, but the fact is that Swanigan was losing fat and gaining muscle. He just looks slimmer and much more mobile, and it’s contributing heavily to his energy, effort and performance on the court.
While Swanigan has dominated offensively in the paint, perhaps one of his greatest talents is one that often goes unnoticed or overlooked in big men, and that is his passing. Monday night against Villanova, he caught a pass on the right block as a double team converged on him, and seemingly with eyes in the back of his head fires a no look wrap-around pass to Vince Edwards cutting to the basket. Plays like that get the players excited, the coaches excited, the fans excited, and NBA scouts excited.
Let’s look at some of the numbers for Swanigan. Through the two games Purdue has played this season, Swanigan is averaging 21.5 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists. He’s shooting 57.7% from the floor in his 29.5 minutes per game. If you want to stretch his numbers out to “per 40 minutes”, they get really crazy. Per 40 minutes played, though be it only through two games, Swanigan is averaging 29.2 points, 19 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. Per 100 possessions, Swanigan boasts an offensive rating of 129.6. The list of impressive stats goes on and on.
Swanigan has not only developed his game on the court, but with guys like A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis gone from last years team, Swanigan has taken on a bit of a leadership role. He can seen throughout the game pulling his teammates together, urging them to play harder or make better decisions. And through two games, his teammates have responded with very impressive showings as a team, though one came in a thrilling loss to the defending National Champs.
The Purdue basketball program and its fans certainly hope that Swanigan can continue this level of pure dominance or at least stay somewhere in the same stratosphere throughout the remainder of this season and hopefully into tournament play. At the same time, a dominant Caleb Swanigan is a nightmare for any opposing team, and he is going to cause a lot of trouble for a lot of really good teams, as he was expected to do when he arrived in West Lafayette last season.