In an NCAA season dominated by phenomenal freshmen like Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz, Caleb Swanigan has flown under the radar.
That's a travesty.
A 6-foot-9, 245-pound sophomore forward for the Purdue Boilermakers, Swanigan has been posting ridiculous numbers. Check out his flashy stat line in Purdue's most recent game: 23 points, 20 rebounds, 6 assists and a block. He's surpassed 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game four times so far this season. He's currently averaging 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
What makes Swanigan even more amazing is that he once weighed almost 400 pounds. Earlier today, ESPN published an excellent feature on his family background.
Born into a poor family, Swanigan was constantly fed low-cost, low-quality food as a child. He gorged himself on pizza, fast food and ice cream. If they were available, he would consume an entire box of cereal and an entire gallon of milk for breakfast. "It's a lot more expensive to eat healthy than it is to eat unhealthy," Swanigan told ESPN.
Obesity runs in his family. Swanigan's father weighed almost 500 pounds when he passed away from complications related to diabetes. In eighth grade, Swanigan weighed a staggering 360 pounds. Here's a video of him playing hoops from around that time:
This is Caleb Swanigan (in the yellow shirt) in 8th grade, working out with his brother, Carl Jr. "Biggie" has changed his body and life. pic.twitter.com/636PYasQj4
— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) January 24, 2017
Here's what he looks like now:
Talk about a transformation! How the heck did this happen?
When he was 13, Swanigan began living with Roosevelt Barnes, a family acquaintance. A former NFL linebacker turned sports agent, Barnes saw tremendous potential in Swanigan. He became Swanigan's legal guardian and helped him totally overhaul his nutrition and training.
Barnes—who played both football and basketball at Purdue—knew Swanigan was special when he saw his work ethic. It took time for Swanigan to drop the weight and improve his conditioning, but he always persevered.
Eventually, Swanigan blossomed into one of the nation's best high school basketball prospects. As a senior, he led Homestead High School (Fort Wayne, Indiana) to a state title.
He has continued to craft his body at Purdue with extra training sessions and a strict, no-nonsense diet. He'll log an hour on the Stairmaster, complete a medicine ball workout and then perform a myriad of explosive drills and lifts—all before practice.
On a typical day, Swanigan eats oatmeal for breakfast, a light lunch before practice and then a high-protein, high-vegetable dinner.
Now a muscular 245 pounds, Swanigan has improved his athleticism and conditioning to the point where he can stuff the stat sheet in a number of ways. His ultimate dream of playing in the NBA has never been closer.
"I'm having a lot of fun," Swanigan said. "I'm in a good spot right now. I'm trying to enjoy it."
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock