Caleb Swanigan Steps Up To Competition
This past July Caleb Swanigan (Homestead High School/Fort Wayne, Ind.) arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Championship Team training camp – his first USA Basketball experience – and the 6-foot-9, 270 pound power forward did what only 11 other players out of 32 contenders were able to do, which was earn a spot on the 2014 USA U17 World Championship Team.
The feat meant Swanigan earned his selection over players who had more USA Basketball experience, and the result was Swanigan helped the USA to a 7-0 record and a gold medal by averaging 8.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
“The atmosphere was amazing, just getting out there and competing, showing what I can do and earning their trust,” Swanigan said of what it was like to take part in his first USA Basketball camp. “I played hard and tried to show my skill set to be able to make that team.
“It is the best feeling that there is in basketball to wear a USA jersey. Playing alongside the best guys and knowing how good they are and how hard they work, and how hard you work, it is easy to trust everyone and just play your hardest all the time.”
Swanigan will have the chance to feel that pride for a second time when he suits up for the 2015 USA Basketball Junior National Select Team in the 18th annual Nike Hoop Summit on April 11 in Portland, Oregon.
“I was really excited when they asked me to be on the USA team for the Nike Hoop Summit,” Swanigan said. “Only 10 or 11 guys get picked to the team out of all the seniors. I was one of them, and that’s a huge honor. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to.
“I didn’t watch the game last year, but my close friend James Blackmon was in it, and he told me it was really fun and that it was a good experience,” Swanigan added.
The Nike Hoop Summit is a unique event for USA Basketball in that it is a yearly, one-game showdown between top U.S. high school seniors and 10 or 11 of the best international players who are 19 years old or younger.
“That is going to be fun, playing against the best players from around the world,” said Swanigan. “It’s a very big game for them, as far as playing against American players and showing what they can do. It’s important that we win for our country.”
While helping his country win basketball games at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship, which was played in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Swanigan said he learned how to push himself to work harder, especially in practice.
“It helped my game a lot,” said Swanigan of his 24 days with USA Basketball this past summer. “Competing in practice every day probably was the best thing for me, because if you take a break against the best players in the country, you will get exposed. It is hard to be that competitive every day when you don’t get that at home.
“It helped me get a grasp on how I should play all the time and how hard you have to play of every second on the floor.”
Having reclassified to become a senior in 2014-15 and skip his junior year, Swanigan recently became Homestead’s all-time leading scorer after he scored 24 points in a win over Northrop High School on Feb. 24. Following that game, Swanigan had amassed 1,466 career points in fewer than three years.
“My senior year has been going pretty well so far, as in the numbers I’ve put up and us winning,” said Swanigan. “The main thing I’ve been focused on is trying to win every game.
“We lost in the semifinals of the state tournament last year, and we have everyone back this year, so anything less than a state title would be disappointing.”
Swanigan has proven that he is willing to put in work in the name of basketball. For example, since topping out at about 350 pounds in the eighth grade, Swanigan changed his diet, put in extra work and now lists at a svelte 270. He said he has learned to better take care of himself, which has helped prevent him from feeling overworked.
“I’m really young right now, and I would have to be doing a lot to get burnt out,” Swanigan explained. “I just make sure that I’m getting sleep; I don’t stay up all night. I don’t go out on weekends super late, so things like that. It’s important to get a lot of sleep and drink a lot of water.”
What drives Swanigan, is something he realized months ago when he first arrived at the USA U17 training camp – where he ranked among the country’s best, young players.
“Just knowing how good everybody else is -- that’s another thing about USA Basketball, it is a reality check to see where you are compared to your peers,” responded Swanigan when asked what drives him. “When you see where you are, it lets you know where you need to take your game.”
Ironically, Swanigan is among the elite high school seniors who have not yet signed a National Letter of Intent or verbally committed to a university. Sought after by every major program, where he takes his game for the 2015-16 NCAA season will depend on a couple of key factors.
“Just being able to trust the coach and knowing that I’m going to have the chance to play next year. Those are the biggest things.
“It definitely exciting,” Swanigan said of the recruiting process. “It’s a lot of everybody wanting you to go to a certain place, and things like that. You just have to stay focused and chose the best place for you.”
One place basketball fans will see Swanigan for sure is in the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit at 12 p.m. (PDT) on April 11 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. Stay tuned to USA Basketball for the television broadcast information, and if you are in the Portland area, get your tickets now.