Caleb Swanigan would have been right at home. An immense collection of muscles in a 6-9 body, "Biggie" wouldn't have conceded a competitive inch to those old NBA brawlers.
Swanigan's national story began in 2012 as he was completing his 8th grade season — but not for basketball. Swanigan emerged as a touted football prospect, understandable given his size and natural power.
Two major changes have transpired the past couple years. He reclassified forward from 2016 into the Class of 2015, and he has cut significant weight to become a dedicated hoopster.
Because he didn't announce the reclass until this past spring, that fundamentally altered his recruitment. Programs eyeing him for the 2016-17 season suddenly had to devise how he could fit into their immediate recruiting plans.
Not that there was much suspense. A top 10 prospect such as Swanigan is going to draw multiple offers irrespective of class, and he performed at a very high level during this year's travel circuit to assuage any concerns.
Swanigan possesses true center size. For that matter, he possesses true center everything. He's a monster who, even with a more svelte physique, digs in at the basket with his tree trunk lower limbs and is nearly impossible to root out of position.
Defenders sometimes attempt to front him instead, but he uses his hips very well to create space for lob entry passes without fouling. And playing from behind, there's simply no stopping him from setting up at close proximity to the bucket.
Once established, Swanigan uses big, sure mitts to catch even imperfect entries. He then utilizes reasonably effective footwork and impressive balance to wheel and deal for power baskets or short turnaround jump shots. He finishes effectively with either hand, quickly turning to his right shoulder and putting the ball on the glass with his left.
Meanwhile, he's among the best rebounders in high school basketball. Swanigan projects as more of a space-eater, defensive rebounder than he does an out-of-area offensive boards-man, but that emphasis adds value to his defensive presence.
|Swanigan can outmuscle nearly every opponent|
Though hardly speedy compared to the various gazelles populating the prep ranks, he runs well and certainly doesn't struggle to keep pace in a faster setting. Though he'll be more effective in the halfcourt, Swanigan doesn't have to play in a slowdown environment.
From a skills perspective, he's actually most refined as a passer. Swanigan boasts excellent court vision for a center. He delivers sharp diagonal passes to wing shooters and also makes little interior flips in the paint. Defenders frequently don't expect such advanced spatial awareness from a power player, and that's one quality that will serve him well his entire career.
He's also remarkably tough and somewhat menacing, once again linking to the days of yore. He'll be a court presence just by being Biggie, whatever else he happens to be doing at a given time.
While he averaged 18 points per game for the Spiece Indy Heat on the EYBL circuit, Swanigan shot just 47 percent from the field in 21 games. Given the description above, you might assume that he'd be a much more efficient scorer.
The primary reason he hasn't been efficient owes to a lack of straight-up vertical leap. Swanigan attempts to shoot the ball high off the glass, but at times he simply struggles to get the altitude necessary to get a clean release. That causes him to be more inconsistent than would be ideal, especially if a strong, long-armed shotlbocker plays behind him.
Having said that, it's worth noting that he improved his shooting to 59 percent at the Peach Jam in July. He didn't score as much overall but seemed to figure out how to adapt versus elite defenders.
Otherwise, continuing to work on his quickness and adding a more consistent facing jumper will be key. He actually makes some threes already, but sometimes his misses fall well shy of the mark. Repetition will help, and at least he's mechanically sound.
If Swanigan were 6-11, he'd probably be a top three prospect and legitimate contender for No. 1 player in the class. As it is, at 6-9 he's still a blue-chipper and someone who should be able to make an immediate impact college before advancing to a lucrative career in the NBA. His scoring and passing tools with his back to the basket clearly will be long-term assets.
First things first, he could become an immediate, designated, rear end-kicker in college. He's already more powerful than most 22-year-old big men, so in his case the usual physical adjustments won't apply. Provided his stamina holds up, he should be able to bludgeon opponents for upwards of 28-30 minutes per game.
Swanigan could become an all-conference performer as a freshman, and at the minimum he projects as one of the country's most physically formidable insiders with room to expand into a truly multi-faceted performer.