For those who worked out for the Utah Jazz in preparation for the NBA draft, the environment and drills were normal. For former Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan, traveling to Salt Lake City was a trip down memory lane.
The state of Indiana may claim Swanigan, because that’s where his basketball talents developed as a teenager, but his roots reside in Utah.
After Saturday’s workout, Swanigan discussed life growing up in the area until he was adopted as a 13-year-old. His childhood included dealing with weight problems as well as a diabetic father with a crack-cocaine addiction.
The instability at home meant Swanigan and his mother had to find another roof to put over his head and according to ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, the Big Ten Player of the Year stayed at five homeless shelters.
“I grew up in the homeless shelter right across the street from Gateway Mall and it was tough, but times like that, you just pull people around you and make good friends,” Swanigan said.
Just when he was about to enter the eighth grade, Swanigan weighed nearly 400 pounds and earned the name Biggie. That was when former Purdue football player Roosevelt Barnes adopted Swanigan and took him back to Indiana.
From that point on, Barnes placed Swanigan into a stable environment and helped him lose weight so he could become the All-American we see today.
“When you come home it humbles you. People that know you from the beginning, they don’t see you as who you are, they see you as where you come from so coming home usually humbles you,” Swanigan said.
The Jazz have the No. 24 pick in the draft and Swanigan is a late first-round prospect. Less than seven years ago, he struggled to survive and now he could potentially play professional basketball right across the street from where he was homeless.
Life is wild sometimes, but Swanigan can be the first one to tell you that.