Former Purdue standout and 2016-17 first-team All-American Caleb Swanigan passed away on Monday, the school announced. The family confirmed the death. He was 25.
Suanigan also ranked among the top 10 players of the year in 2017 after a season in which he averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists for a Purdue team that went 27-8 to the Sweet 16 Suanigan, former McDonald’s All-American, stakedearly participation in the NBA draft. He was drafted 26th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2017, where he played for two seasons.
The 6-foot-9 power forward spent time in the G League before returning to play 10 games for the Sacramento Kings in 2018-19 and 2019-20. He ended his playing career with the Trail Blazers with 20 more games for Portland in the 2019-20 season. Suanigan’s struggles with weight gain eventually led to his retirement from basketball. After that, he branched out into rap music — long before that, he fondly adopted the moniker “Biggie” for himself — though Swanigan also gained notoriety for his ongoing health issues and allegations of drug use in 2021 following his departure from the NBA.
“The Purdue basketball family is deeply saddened and devastated by the loss of Caleb Swanigan,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter. “Caleb was a very thoughtful person and gentle soul who excelled both on and off the court. He made a huge contribution to the lives of everyone he touched and will be greatly missed.”
Swanigan died of natural causes, according to WANE in Fort Wayne, Indiana. cited by the Allen County Coroner’s Office..
Swanigan has been open about his precarious situation as a child. His father used crack cocaine. He had jerks where he lived five times in homeless shelters, according to a 2017 ESPN story, and also wavered between living in Indiana and Utah, where his mother lived. Suanigan’s father, Carl, died of diabetes in 2014, before Caleb joined Purdue. Swanigan’s path to Purdue was paved when former Purdue star Roosevelt Barnes, who coached Swanigan in grassroots basketball, took him in and became his guardian in Fort Wayne. Barnes adopted Suanigan as a teenager. It was this decision that led Suanigan to the path of basketball, which turned him into one of the best students in the country.
“During his NBA career, Suanigan worked extensively with Portland’s youth and FoodCorps to promote healthy eating habits in schools and eliminate child hunger,” Purdue said in a statement.
Swanigan’s former teammates quickly took to social media to express their grief, including Vincent Edwards, who played with Swanigan in Purdue and posted photos of their time together as the Boilermakers.