To get to know new Indiana forward Freddie McSwain Jr., you have to know these two stories.
You have to know his dad’s college basketball experience, and you have to know why “HT” is so meaningful to McSwain.
The 6-foot-6 forward will be a junior at Indiana after playing two years at Neosho County Community College.
During his sophomore season there, the entire team wore a patch with “HT” on it.
McSwain came up with the idea.
It was a tribute to a fan he met who died of cancer.
McSwain tells the story:
“The whole season went out to Harold Turner,” McSwain told peegs.com. “I got there and met him when I was a freshman. I saw him at every game.
“He had cancer and died of cancer. He survived it for so long, and he’s out there with cancer watching our games. I see he’s a fighter at his age. When he should have been in bed, he’s out there watching us play.
“He died and I told a reporter, ‘Every dunk I make is for him.’ He’s a fighter. He made good history at Neosho himself. That’s why I cherish every moment I have.”
McSwain’s father, Fred McSwain Sr., was not surprised.
“That’s just who he is. Thank God, that’s just who he is,” McSwain Sr. said.
“He always thinks about other people. He thinks about his little nieces and nephews. It’s freakish how close we are. I felt like when he got older, we’d grow apart, but we talk every day in one form or another.
“It’s amazing how God has blessed him. For me, it’s like finding a pot of gold. I tell him all the time how proud I am of him. I don’t worry about the basketball. That’s going to take care of itself, because I know who he is.”
Now, back to McSwain Sr.’s comment: “Thank God, that’s just who he is.”
Fred McSwain Sr. was a Division I basketball player in his day at Southern Illinois.
He was talented. He was athletic. He was a double-figurer scorer at the Division I level. He pretty much stopped there.
He didn’t take basketball or college as seriously as he should have.
“I prayed to God that he wouldn’t be like me,” McSwain Sr. “That’s honesty. God blessed me with that.
“I was all out being wild, doing anything I wanted, living off my athleticism. He’s not that guy. He’s a hard worker.
“If he had been laying bricks, he’d be the hardest working brick layer. He’s just that guy.”
Of the reasons dad raised his son the way he did was a direct result of the opportunities a dad felt he squandered.
“When I was in college, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t do any extra work. Getting his education is more important to him than mine was to me. Maybe that’s why I was on him so hard for so many years.
“I wanted to party. I partied every day. I was with all these different girls. He doesn’t do any of that stuff.
“If I would have had his work ethic, I would have been five times the player I was. I spent as much time in basketball as I did in the distractions. He’s not caught up in the distractions. He knows how to handle himself, how to be committed, that you play as hard as you can because somebody is always watching me.
“I didn’t have a father. I knew who he was, but he wasn’t around. I wanted to make sure my son had someone in his ear all the time.”
The direction from dad wasn’t really about sports and certainly wasn’t focused on basketball.
At one point, McSwain Sr. 48, thought his son would be a football player.
Freddie McSwain, 21, didn’t start playing organized basketball until his junior year of high school, and that was spurred by a growth spurt that helped him play center at a small school.
“Ever since he was 9, I’ve been drilling in him how to carry himself, how to respect people, respect people’s opinions. I don’t think he’s got any other choice. I really don’t.
“I made a lot of bad choices in my life, and I told him about every one of them. There are no secrets from my son. We made a pact when he was little to tell each other everything, and I told him all the wrong directions I went.
“I asked God, ‘If I can just be an example of what not to do, I’ll take that.’
“Success for us is not just basketball. Success is him being able to take care of himself when the air comes out of the ball. I’m just so proud to be his dad."
(SEE ALSO: Video breakdown of Indiana newcomer Freddie McSwain.)