PORTLAND, Ore. — Caleb Swanigan, who played parts of three seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, has died. Swanigan was 25 years old.
Before he was drafted by Portland with the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Swanigan was a standout at Purdue. He was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and was a consensus first-team All American his sophomore season, when he averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds.
Purdue's men's basketball program reported Swanigan's death, writing in a social media post that "the world lost a gentle soul last night." The Allen County Coroner's Office in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Swanigan lived during his teenage years, confirmed that Swanigan died of natural causes at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne.
The coroner’s office senior investigator Rebecca Maze said a private doctor will be handling his death certificate.
After he was drafted, Swanigan made an Immediate positive impression for the Blazers during the 2017 summer league, averaging 16.1 points and 10.6 rebounds and being named to the all-league team. At media prior to his rookie season, Swanigan was praised by Portland's veterans, including Damian Lillard, as a player who stood out in preseason workouts.
Swanigan's success at summer league didn't translate to the regular season. Minutes were hard to come by on a veteran Blazers team aiming for the playoffs and Swanigan played just 27 games, averaging 2.3 points and 2.0 rebounds in 7.0 minutes per game.
The following season, Portland traded Swanigan to the Sacramento Kings for Skal Labissiere at the trade deadline. A year later, at the 2020 NBA trade deadline, the Kings traded Swanigan back to the Blazers as part of a deal that brought Trevor Ariza to Portland.
Portland didn't re-sign Swanigan after the 2020 season and he didn't play another game in the NBA. Swanigan played three seasons in the NBA and averaged 2.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 75 career games.
Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic reacted to the news about Swanigan's death on Twitter, saying, "my thoughts and prayers to Caleb Swanigan's family." Other Blazers, including Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Trendon Watford, also shared condolences on social media.
The Trail Blazers posted a message on Twitter, saying they're "heartbroken" and their "thoughts and prayers are with Caleb's family, friends and all who loved him."
Swanigan endured homelessness as a child. In a 2017 ESPN article, Myron Medcalf wrote that Swanigan "floated between unstable housing situations and homeless shelters, back and forth between Indianapolis and Utah, as his mother, Tanya, tried to stabilize her life with six children, all while his father, Carl Swanigan Sr., wrestled with a crack-cocaine addiction."
When Swanigan was 13 years old, he was adopted by a sports agent and moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he became one of the top prep basketball players in the country. He was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball and invited to the McDonald's All-American game. He initially committed to Michigan State before changing his mind and committing to Purdue.
After he was drafted into the NBA, Swanigan helped organize a fundraiser for the homeless in Salt Lake City, where he spent much of his youth. He also released a music single, "On The Moon," in 2019 and completed his degree at Purdue.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.