It likely is just coincidence and timing that Homestead sophomore Caleb Swanigan has stepped up his play since receiving a verbal scholarship offer from Indiana last week, but there is no doubt that coach Tom Crean and Hoosiers fans like what they are seeing.
The 6-foot-8, 280-pound Swanigan was named an IBCA/Subway Player of the Week last week after averaging 25.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in two games, including dropping a career-high 36 points on Class 4A No. 4 North Side.
He continued his hot streak this week by scoring 20 points and grabbing 20 rebounds in a victory over Huntington North to open sectional play.
Indiana had shown interest in Swanigan for some time, although it hadn't been as heavy as other programs such as Michigan State and Pittsburgh before the offer.
“It means a lot getting recruiting in-state by Tom Crean and the organization they have,” Swanigan said. “It's a deep tradition the Hoosiers have in Indiana … it's a big deal.”
Assistant coach Kenny Johnson contacted Swanigan early last week and then gave the phone to Crean, who told Swanigan that he and his staff and been watching him since the summer.
“(Crean said) how he likes how I can step out and play outside like guys like Noah Vonleh and Cody Zeller,” Swanigan said. “It was a nice talk.”
Swanigan has shown the ability to step out and hit a big outside shot this season, but has also become a more dominant force in the paint. His drop-step move has improved, as has his ability to spin off defenders and get to the basket.
Despite no in-state offers before last week in spite of his top-20 ranking in the Class of 2016 by various recruiting websites, Swanigan believed it was only a matter of time.
“I felt like it was coming soon just because a lot of guys in my class had been offered,” Swanigan said about the Indiana offer. “They were just busy with what they were doing with their season.”
Swanigan also mentioned the possibility of a miscommunication between himself and the Hoosiers.
“I think for the most part they didn't think I was ever interested in Indiana, so I think they thought maybe I was just a Michigan State guy,” Swanigan said. “But the more they watched me, they decided to offer me.”
Michigan State has indeed been the most visible program in his recruitment. Coach Tom Izzo attended Homestead's late-season game with Snider to check out the sophomore, while assistant coach Dane Fife took in Tuesday's sectional game with Huntington North.
Swanigan also has scholarship offers from Georgia State, Tennessee, Georgetown, Michigan State and Illinois. Purdue is in contact regularly but has yet to make an offer.
Despite the increased interest, Swanigan is still taking his recruitment slowly.
“I'm just talking to everyone right now, just feeling out the process still,” Swanigan said. “After the summer I plan to have more (offers) and I'll see who I like and get out and visit more.”
Homestead (16-7) returns to action against Wayne (12-8) in the Class 4A Huntington North Sectional semifinal at about 7:30 today.