"While he showed incredible maturity for his age in keeping his feet on the ground with his arms up while defending the post, the freshman still has a ways to go."Just over two years ago, that is how I described Caleb Swanigan’s first high school game.
Like Wednesday night’s opener, Homestead began the year against Huntington North at home. Swanigan went for 10 points and seven rebounds that evening in a six-point Spartans victory.
The potential was easy to see in that first contest for Swanigan. He was huge even as a rookie, forcing his body inside and instilling his will. But he was also incredibly raw. His defensive prowess needed work as well as his footwork.Put simply, he had yet to grow into his massive frame.
In Wednesday’s 72-45 victory over Huntington North, Swanigan displayed just what type of player he has become since 2012. Not only does he look the part as a 6-foot-9 forward with a muscular physique, he showcased his abilities not only around the net, but all over the court.
Swanigan finished with 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting along with 14 rebounds in the victory. His dominance in the paint was expected. The footwork that had not yet been developed two years ago was on full display.
You name it, Swanigan showed it off against the Vikings.
But what was really impressive – and equally scary to future opponents – was how well Swanigan ran the floor.
How often do you see a 6-9, 275-pounder grab a defensive rebound, take the ball up the floor on the dribble and dish to an open teammate for a layup?
Not often. Yet Swanigan makes it look effortless.
"I’ve been working on it all off-season, being able to get out there (on the perimeter)," Swanigan said. "I was working on my perimeter stuff (as a freshman), it just wasn’t ready yet to show, so I stayed in the post."
The size and strength of Swanigan is not what makes him a top 20 player nationally. As impressive as that aspect of his game is, it is his ability to step out and guard someone on the perimeter or bring the ball up the floor like a point guard that truly makes him invaluable to many of the top collegiate programs in the country seeking his services.
Watching Swanigan over the last two years has been a delight as he put in the time to make him a better player. Last year, he showed flashes of being able to step outside as he proved himself a three-point threat on occasion.
But this season is different in that the skills have developed to the level where he is truly a mismatch. Any opposing player big enough to match up to Swanigan will have trouble when the Homestead big man steps out. He has become quick enough to take on guards when needed both offensively and defensively and can be point man in transition when warranted.
"It’s night and day compared to where he was as an eighth grader," said Homestead coach Chris Johnson about Swanigan’s overall game. "Even last year when we went on our run (to semistate) you could see that he was starting to become the man and starting to understand what it was all about."
Swanigan has diversified his game to the point that the simple, "Attack him at the basket" plan by opponents no longer applies.
Expect Swanigan to be just as active with the ball when Jordan Geist returns. The Indiana Junior All-Star was not in uniform on Wednesday and will sit out this weekend’s Bluegrass Festival in Kentucky. The three games sidelined relate back to a suspension he received while at Penn High School before transferring.
As for Swanigan, he will have the opportunity to perform on the big stage in Lexington this weekend with the Spartans, where he will likely open some eyes with his skills.
Skills that have surely come a long way in two years.