I come into meetings late all the time, but this time I was greeted by one obnoxious IU fan (every office has 10) shaking an accusing finger at me saying “Swanigan won’t play” this season. Caleb Swanigan, a Purdue freshman, is the reigning Indiana Mr. Basketball whose eligibility has recently come under question.
Caleb was taken in and eventually adopted by former Purdue basketball, football, and baseball player Roosevelt Barnes before his freshman year of high school. Barnes is also a contract advisor with Relativity Sports and it is this connection that provides the basis for the NCAA investigation. Jason King’s Bleacher Report column on the controversy is a must-read.
So to the insinuation that Swanigan not playing will ruin Purdue’s season, I answered, “So what?” This response tweaked my thinking process and all I could think about throughout the remainder of the meeting was, how would the Boilermakers fare without Caleb’s 6’9″ presence in the lineup this season?
Purdue is loaded—deep, talented, and fairly young. Because of this wealth, playing minutes are going to be hard to come by this season, which has already prompted talk of red-shirting junior Basil Smotherman, and potentially red-shirting freshmen guards Ryan Cline and Grant Weatherford, too. Looking ahead, if you add Swanigan to these three, you have a potentially good starting lineup for next season.
Where’s the downside?
Touted sharp-shooter junior Kendall Stephens is probably tired of his father (and former Boiler guard) Everette getting on his case this summer about his erratic shooting last year. His shooting so far has shown improvement, but if he ever wants to get his father off his back, all Kendall has to do is say, “Dad, remember Mitch Richmond,” and that should shut him up. (Look it up.)
Ideally, senior center A.J. Hammons will pull his head out of his ass to lead and play like the center he can be, which is a defensively dominating, consistent scoring machine. This kid reminds me of a mix between Joe Barry Carroll and Brad Miller. But Isaac Haas, a sophomore, will be around for at least one more year, giving the Boilers the inside-out the team was expecting from Swanigan this season next year.
Where’s the downside?
Plan on defensive whiz senior Rapheal Davis to play great again, but the player on this roster to really watch this year is Vince Edwards. The potential this kid showed last season in spots reminded me of Paul George his first couple of years with the Pacers—unbelievable flashes of brilliance at times, and at other times, flashes of freshman play. This will be the year Edwards breaks out to become the scoring/rebounding forward the Boilers need. Once he begins to dominate his opponents with his incredible athleticism, this will open up the outside for the sharpshooters, Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson and transfer Johnny Hill for another, which in turn will make Hammons’s job under the hoop that much easier.
This is going to be a great season in Indiana for basketball. All of the colleges are full of talented players, and the Pacers have a whole new look. But I don’t believe Purdue’s fortunes hang on whether Swanigan plays or not. It would be nice, but if not, the move sets the Boilers up for a great 2017, too.