Caleb Swanigan, former Purdue standout and first-round NBA draft pick, dies at 25

Caleb Swanigan of the Portland Trail Blazers reacts before a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center on March 27, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Caleb Swanigan, the 2017 Big Ten Player of the Year and standout at Purdue, has died, the school said Tuesday. He was 25.

Purdue announced Swanigan’s death on Twitter.

"Devastated. Our thoughts and prayers to Caleb Swanigan’s family and friends. The world lost a gentle soul last night," the tweet read. "Love you Biggie."

The Allen County Coroner’s Office, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, told WANE-TV that Swanigan died of natural causes.

Tributes poured in for Swanigan on Twitter.

Swanigan was a standout basketball player. He was a McDonald’s All American and named Indiana Mr. Basketball in 2015 before playing for Purdue. He helped the United States U17 and U19  national teams to gold medals in their respective World Championships.

With the Boilermakers, he was the Big Ten Player of the Year and a Consensus All-American in 2017 before turning pro. He broke the school’s single-season record for rebounds and double-doubles that year.


Caleb Swanigan #50 of the Purdue Boilermakers is defended by Landen Lucas #33 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 23, 2017, in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squir

The Portland Trail Blazers selected him in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. He was the 26th overall selection. He played for the Trail Blazers from 2017-2019 while also spending time in the G-League with the Canton Charge and Texas Legends. He played for the Sacramento Kings during the 2019-20 season and later played 20 games for the Trail Blazers in 2020.

Swanigan also experienced homelessness early in his life.

According to an ESPN profile, Swanigan said he lived in five different homeless shelters during his family’s travels between Indianapolis and Utah. He said he had been in more than a dozen different schools by the time he was 13.

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