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2015-16 Purdue Basketball Player Reviews: Caleb Swanigan

Purdue's star sophomore was good, but he can be so much better.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

First, let me calm everyone down: Caleb Swanigan is coming back for the 2016-17 season. Yes, he has declared for the draft, but under the new rules a lot of players are going to declare, go through the evaluation process, and eventually return. It would not surprise me if Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas did the same before too long. If you have any chance at the NBA a player is going to do it, get evaluated, learned what they need to work on, then return.

Swanigan is going to return because, while good, he is not ready. Purdue's first McDonald's All-American and Mr. Basketball in decades had a solid, productive season, but he still has a lot to work on.

Caleb Swanigan

10.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.8 apg

Let's start with the good. As a freshman Swanigan was the best rebounder in the Big Ten based on average. He averaged 8.3 per game and had 282 boards, second only to Michigan State's Matt Costello, who had 287, but played in one more game. He was durable, starting and playing in all but one game (at Minnesota). Purdue could rely on him as a low post scorer and had some interesting small ball lineups with him at the five on occasion.

As much as people griped about him at times, he was a freshman that was an automatic 10 and 8 every night. There is not a coach in America that would want to get rid of that. On other night he showed just how frightening he could be. Against Wisconsin he had 27 points and 8 rebounds while completely abusing B1G Freshman of the Year Ethan Happ. Against Butler he had 25 points and 11 rebounds, including a 3 of 4 from three-point land performance. If you put him on the floor he was going to come really close to getting you a double-double.

Now, onto the bad.

First off, turnovers were a major issue. He finished the season with 90, which is dangerously close to three per game. That 25-11 against Butler? It came with a costly 7 turnovers that likely led to the loss. He had a tendency to put the ball on the floor at bad times, resulting in easy turnovers as he attempted to go to the basket.

Almost as bad, his three-point selection and accuracy was way off. Officially, he finished 21 of 72 for the season at 29.2%. He started strong by hitting 5 of his first 11, but closed by hitting three of his last twelve. Also, many of his misses came as some very odd times. In the loss at Maryland he was 0 for 5 and jacked up some misses in critical spots. In the Big Ten title game he tried to play hero with a three, only to be off within the final minute.

I understand why he is shooting them. He is getting good looks and has decent form. It is also something he'll need to do at the next level. If he can improve that percentage from 29% to 39% in 2016-17 I am all for him shooting it, but until then, it is clearly something that he needs to work on.

Finally, Biggie's defense was... questionable at best. He has excellent footwork for an offensive big, but defensively he needs more quickness so other forward don't simply drive past him. Maryland's Robert Carter showed that in the game in College Park. Biggie repeatedly lost him and Carter finished with 19 points as a result. Better defense on Carter and better shot selection probably turns that game from a loss into a win.

And that is where with Biggie. Normally, if we had a player average a 10-8 as a freshman we would be over the moon. Biggie came in as a five-star player, however, and since we hadn't had one in a while I think we expected perfection. Some might have expected a 25-15-5 every night while he dominated the Big Ten.

The truth is that the jump from HS to college is tricky for most players, and only a select few come in and crush skulls from day 1. Biggie put up solid numbers. We knew we were getting a mix of good and bad every night. Now, if he returns (and it is extremely likely he will) it is up to him to improve into a dominant player in year two. That game against Wisconsin showed that we are nowhere near his ceiling. If he improves his jump shot, defense, and cuts down on his turnovers, we have dominant player and First Team all-B1G type of player on our hands.