LISTEN: Caleb Swanigan: ‘Like I Died And Then Had A Reincarnation’

 

Alyssa Naimoli

CBS Sunday Morning’s Steve Hartman told the tale of an inspiring athlete who currently plays basketball at Purdue University. This basketball star’s name is Caleb Swanigan, and he came from very unlikely circumstances.

“It feels like I’ve had two lives really,” Swanigan said. “Like I died and then had a reincarnation.”

Swanigan is a sophomore at Purdue University where he has made history on several occasions as a Boilmaker. He is the first NCAA player to have four 20-20 games in a season and has been honored as the Big Ten Player of the Week five times, the second most in a season in league history. He currently leads the country in double-doubles this season (25).

This season, Swanigan averages 18.7 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He also has a .540 field goal, .449 three-point and .792 free throw percentages. While he’s posting incredible stats in his college thus far, he wasn’t always the most likely guy to excel on the court.

Preview the 2017 Big Ten Basketball Tournament.

Swanigan was 360 pounds in the eighth grade and living on the streets before he entered the foster care system and his life changed forever.

“The only thing this kid could dunk was a cookie,” said Hartman. “Caleb was homeless and his mom bounced him from shelter to shelter in Indianapolis and across the country until 2011 when she gave up her parental rights.”

Swanigan was “adopted by Roosevelt Barnes” who “was recently divorced with children who were grown.” Barnes stated that he wanted to adopt Swanigan because “it allowed [him] to have someone in the house who [he] could love again.”

Even though Swanigan didn’t necessarily fit the type to play basketball “Roosevelt didn’t try and lower his expectations… he raised them.”

“Even when he could barely jump over a piece of paper, I’m telling him ‘you’re doing great, you’re the best power forward in the world,'” said Barnes. “I wasn’t [lying to him,] I was speaking faith.”

Swanigan credited Barnes for the support and encouragement he gave him: “I guess he saw something in me that I didn’t see at that time.”

Swanigan couldn’t have predicted that one day he’d be 6-foot-9 and Purdue’s most important player at just 19-years-old.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” said Barnes. “And the evidence of things not seen.”

Barnes implemented a system that could help Swanigan “[get] in shape and [get] mostly A’s in school.” Now, Swanigan is an “Academic All-American” and “one of the top [collegiate] basketball players in the country with a 3.3 GPA to boot.”

While Swanigan is an Academic All-American, he’s also a leading candidate for CBS National Player of the Year. His Boilermakers lead the Big Ten going into the conference tournament, which starts Wednesday.

“Is [Caleb] one of a kind,” asked Hartman. “Or is he one of many kids on the street and in our foster systems who simply need someone to believe.”

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