Swanigan goes from homeless to the NBA

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Caleb Swangian appreciates being back home.

“It’s very humbling coming from places like this around the city,” said the former Purdue basketball star. “Then coming back to be on the pro team and try to have this opportunity is a blessing.”

Swanigan’s childhood was far from a blessing. From the ages of 5 to 13, Swanigan was in an out of the downtown homeless shelter in downtown Salt Lake City. He was exposed to drugs, violence, and an absentee father, who spent time in prison.

“I grew up in the homeless shelter right across the street from Gateway Mall,” Swanigan said. “It was tough, but times like that, you just pull with people around you, make good friends around the Glendale area. That’s where I grew up and I moved around a little bit in the West Valley area.”

Moving back and forth between Salt Lake City and Indiana, Swanigan was eventually adopted by former NFL player Roosevelt Barnes, who helped turn a 360-pound 8th grader into a dominant power forward at Purdue.

During his sophomore season, Swanigan averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, in leading the Boilermakers to the Sweet 16. Swanigan was named the Big 10 Player of the Year and on June 22nd, he is expected to be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“Fortunately Roosevelt ended up taking me to Fort Wayne, Indiana,” Swanigan said. “That’s when I just started getting stability in my life that enabled me to be successful.”

Swanigan refuses to look at his upbringing as a detriment, but rather as an experience that made him stronger and more prepared for life in the NBA.

“I lot of guys may feel pressure on the court, but when you face real life pressure, it’s a total difference,” he said. “I have a good discrepancy to be able to separate that. It makes it a lot easier on the court. It’s just basketball, it’s fun.”

And being back in Utah, where he still has a lot of family, reminds him of just how far he has come.

“That’s the biggest thing, when you come home, it humbles you,” Swanigan said. “People that have known you since the beginning, they don’t see you for who you are, they see you where you’ve come from. So, coming home always humbles you.”

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