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Caleb Swanigan has opportunity to become rare Purdue first-round pick

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Boilermakers have had just one first-rounder since Glenn Robinson was selected first overall in 1994.

NCAA Basketball: New Mexico at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA Draft rapidly approaches, BTPowerhouse continues to look at the draft histories of Big Ten programs. Today we take a look at the Purdue Boilermakers, a team that regularly has players drafted but has had just one first-round pick in the last 22 years.

Caleb Swanigan has as much potential of any Boilermaker this century. The 6-foot-9 forward, the Big Ten Player of the Year as a sophomore last season, will be the first Purdue underclassmen to be drafted since Glenn Robinson was drafted first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1994. He could also be just the second Purdue first-round pick since Robinson, joining JaJuan Johnson in 2011.

Recent History

Five Purdue players have been drafted since legendary head coach Gene Keady retired following the 2004-05 season. Carl Landy, a Keady recruit, was the first, selected 31st overall by the Seattle SuperSonics (traded to the Houston Rockets) in 2007. Landry has had the most successful NBA career of any Purdue alum this decade, averaging 10.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in 513 games for the Rockets, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers. The 6-foot-9 forward last appeared with the 76ers in 2015-16.

Purdue put together some strong teams at the start of this decade, and that was clear in the ensuing NBA Drafts. Johnson and E’Twaun Moore were selected 27th and 55th, respectively, in the 2011 NBA Draft. Robbie Hummel followed the next year, drafted 58th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2012.

Johnson and Hummel didn’t last long in the NBA, while Moore is coming off one of his most productive years in the league. The 6-foot-4 guard appeared in 73 games for New Orleans this season, scoring a career-high 9.6 points per game while adding 2.2 assists per game.

AJ Hammons ended a three-year Purdue drought when he was selected 46th by the Mavericks in 2016. The 7-foot center saw limited action in his first year, averaging 2.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.

1990s Purdue

Purdue won the Big Ten title outright in 1994, 1995 and 1996, a run that was spurred by Glenn Robinson. Robinson left Purdue after his junior year and was the No. 1 pick in the 1994 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-7 small forward spent his first eight years in Milwaukee, making the East All-Star team in 2000 and 2001. Robinson finished his career in Atlanta, Philadelphia and San Antonio, averaging 20.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game during an 11-year career that ended after the 2004-05 season, when he won a title with the Spurs.

Robinson is the gold standard for Purdue, but another late-1990s player actually had a longer NBA career. Brian Cardinal spent 12 years in the NBA after being drafted 44th overall by the Detroit Pistons in 2000.

Cardinal, who scored a career-high 9.6 points per game for the Warriors in 2003-04, averaged just 4.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game for his career. The 6-foot-8 forward appeared in 56 games for the Dallas Mavericks team that won the title in 2011, then played one more year before retiring.

Steve Scheffler and Jimmy Oliver also carved out a relatively-long careers in the NBA. The 39th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1990, Scheffler went on to play in 174 games over the course of seven seasons. A 6-foot-9 big man, Scheffler averaged 1.6 points and 1.0 rebounds per game.

Oliver, a 6-foot-7 forward, was drafted 39th by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1991, averaging 4.2 points per game while bouncing around from 1991-1999. The bulk of Oliver’s action came with Cleveland in 1991-92 and Boston in 1993-94.

Finally, Purdue’s Cuonzo Martin was drafted 57th by Atlanta in 1995. Currently the head men’s basketball coach at Missouri, Martin appeared in just seven NBA games.

Before ‘Big Dog’

Robinson isn’t the first No. 1 overall pick in Purdue history. That honor belongs to Joe Barry Carroll, who was selected first by the Warriors in 1980.

A first-team All-American who led Purdue to the Final Four as a senior, Carroll put together a solid NBA career. The 7-footer averaged 17.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game over the course of his 10-year career, making one All-Star Game. Carroll played 491 of his 705 career games with the Warriors before spending time with the Nets, Rockets, Nuggets and Suns.

Purdue has had five more first-round picks in program history. The first was Bulbs Ehlers, who went third overall to Boston in 1947. Dave Schellhase went 10th to Chicago in 1966, Kyle Macy 22nd to Phoenix in 1979, Keith Edmonson 10th to Atlanta in 1982, and Russell Cross sixth to Golden State in 1983.

Looking forward

Swanigan will become the 47th Purdue player selected when the draft gets underway on Thursday, and the latest in a long line of big men. Purdue isn’t a program that is built on star power, but alumni having long-term NBA success can go a long way in establishing a talented pipeline.