PEACH JAM: Swanigan draws Cats' eye

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- For one of the nation's top basketball prospects, it's been a good time to shed things.

In the case of Caleb Swanigan, it's been about 90 extra pounds that had been weighing him down since his middle school days and an extra year of high school.

The five-star Fort Wayne (Ind.) Homestead big man has trimmed down to 256 pounds and reclassified from the Class of 2016 down to 2015 in order to take advantage of his advanced skills as soon as possible.

Major programs from coast to coast have been rushing to get into the mix, including Kentucky. He's been building a relationship with new UK assistant coach Barry "Slice" Rohrssen in recent weeks.

"He's real easy to relate to," said Swanigan, who poured in 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds in his first game of the Nike EYBL Finals at Peach Jam with the UK staff looking on. "He's not uptight. You know, he's a good guy.

"I heard from him (Thursday). He texted me, 'Just go to work at Peach Jam and do what you're doing.' Stuff like that."

It sounds like he accepted the challenge.

In his second game at Peach Jam, matched up against fellow five-star big men Cheick Diallo and Thomas Bryant of Team Scan, Swanigan recorded 20 points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots and three assists. Even more impressive, he hit a pair of game-tying 3-pointers at the buzzer to force overtime and double-overtime before Spiece eventually fell 85-79.

The Who's Who of College Basketball scene surrounding the court momentarily broke free from their reserved viewing nature to exchange high-fives on Swanigan's second clutch shot. A few rose from their seats in exultation.

"Just making shots, man," Swanigan said with a smile. "That's what it's all about."

Kentucky has yet to extend an official scholarship offer, but with Swanigan's play this week and the amount of attention the Wildcats have been giving his games, that may not be far away.

Scout's No. 7 center and No. 12 player overall has offers from Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Georgetown, Louisville, Kansas, Michigan State and UCLA, but that list keeps expanding almost by the day since his reclassification.

"There's a lot of schools recruiting me the most," he said, adding that a trimmed list could be coming in late August.

Don't expect an early decision.

"I'm going to wait at least until (the college season) because a lot of coaches can say what they're doing, but I actually want to watch the teams," Swanigan said. "I'm going to go on some visits and watch the teams and see what it's actually like."

Asked if Kentucky was in the picture, Swanigan said: "I haven't narrowed my list down. Right now, everyone is in the picture, but they're definitely a possibility. Just the way they develop their guys and the way they win.

"If you play hard, you can play at Kentucky, and I play hard. I can fit right in with what they do."

Some UK fans may see a bit of former Cat Marquis Estill in Swanigan's frame and play style. Like Estill, who once tipped the scales at 350-plus pounds in high school, Swanigan has changed his body by working out harder and altering his diet.

"Giving up sweets was hard," he said with a smile. "Real hard."

Scout national basketball analyst Evan Daniels broke down his game:

"At his best, Swanigan is a classical low block scoring beast with excellent hands and feet. He obviously can overpower, but he doesn't absolutely have to play that way. He already possesses a spin move and other blossoming scoring options. Once he adds a fully polished drop step and jump hook, he'll command consistent double teams from defenses at the next level. His hands also are sure for tough catches in traffic."

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