UK target from Indiana inspires comparison to NBA All-Star Zach Randolph

broberts@herald-leader.comAugust 20, 2014 

One look at the game and the frame of Caleb Swanigan, and it's tough to shy away from the comparison.

Swanigan, a standout power forward at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., does things offensively that a player listed at 6-foot-8 and 280 pounds shouldn't be able to do. And he's doing it less than an hour up the road from where one of the most versatile big men in basketball burst onto the scene about 15 years ago.

"I try not to compare — and he probably doesn't like me to compare — but he reminds me of a young Zach Randolph," Homestead Coach Chris Johnson told the Herald-Leader. "He has a knack for where the ball is. With rebounding, he knows where it's going to be. That's tough to teach as a coach, and he just understands it. He gets it."

Randolph has developed into an NBA All-Star and one of the most entertaining offensive players in the league during his current run with the Memphis Grizzlies. He got his start at Marion High School — 50 miles from Homestead — and observers in the area have been quick to compare Swanigan to the former No. 1 national recruit.

The similarities are there. Both are nimble, big-bodied post players who can overpower defenders down low and then drift away from the basket to drain a quick jumper.

"He likes to bang with people, but he's worked on his game to where he can step out and hit a three-point shot," Johnson said. "He's an all-around package. He's going to continue to get better because he works hard at his game. And that's the reason why he's putting himself in position to be one of the better players in the nation."

Swanigan was already highly rated before a stellar showing on the summer circuit netted scholarship offers from Kentucky and other top programs.

He moved up a few spots to No. 8 overall in the class of 2015 rankings released earlier this week. National analyst Evan Daniels said he saw a new level of assertiveness from Swanigan over the summer.

"He's got this big, thick frame, but he's very mobile and knows how to use his feet," Daniels told the Herald-Leader. "He has good hands and good touch around the rim. He can face up and make shots. He's just a versatile offensive threat that has made strong advancements to his game over the past six months."

Swanigan started the year as a member of the class of 2016, but he decided in the spring to reclassify and get a head start on college. He doesn't turn 18 until April, but he already has proven himself against and alongside older competition.

His latest action came for the Team USA junior squad that featured nine players with UK scholarship offers. The team won a gold medal last week in Dubai. Swanigan averaged 8.0 points and 5.7 rebounds, made 70 percent of his field-goal attempts and led the team in free throws — converting 77 percent of those — despite playing just 14 minutes a game.

Swanigan put up big numbers as the star player on his AAU squad, which qualified for the Nike Peach Jam last month. New UK assistant coach Barry Rohrssen, who recruited Swanigan at Pittsburgh, was in the stands for each of his Peach Jam games.

John Calipari took in a couple as well, and the UK coach was impressed enough to extend a scholarship offer a couple days later.

The Cats join Michigan State, Kansas, Arizona, Indiana and several other top programs on Swanigan's list. He told the Herald-Leader last month that he doesn't expect to make a decision any time soon, but UK fans could see him in Rupp Arena sometime over the next few months.

"I'm definitely going to hold off at least until they start playing," Swanigan said. "A lot of coaches will say what they're doing, but I actually want to watch the teams. I'll go on visits and watch them play and see what it's really like."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog:

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