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Caleb Swanigan, who dealt with homelessness in Salt Lake before making it to the NBA, dies at 25

The former first-round draft pick overcame a difficult youth to become an All-American at Purdue

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Portland Trail Blazers forward Caleb Swanigan (50) reacts after drawing a foul in a game against the Utah Jazz on Feb. 7, 2020. The Salt Lake City native reportedly died Monday at the age of 25.

Caleb Swanigan, who overcame a childhood dotted by homelessness in Salt Lake City to become a first-round NBA draft pick, died Monday night. He was 25.

The Purdue University men’s basketball team announced the news of Swanigan’s death, but did not provide further details. Swanigan played for the Boilermakers for two seasons before getting drafted No. 26 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2017.

“Devastated,” the Boilermakers wrote on Twitter. “Our thoughts and prayers to Caleb Swanigan’s family and friends. The world lost a gentle soul last night. Love you Biggie.”

Swanigan’s time in Salt Lake City was trying. He spent time living in homeless shelters. He also battled a weight issue, at one point weighing 360 pounds in eighth grade.

Swanigan’s nights in those homeless shelters saw him witnessing people shoot heroin in the bathroom and leaving needles by the sink, according to a 2015 Bleacher Report article. Swanigan’s brother, Carl Jr., said in the Bleacher Report article that living in Utah was especially difficult.

Swanigan recalled in a 2017 ESPN story staying in five homeless shelters throughout his youth. His father struggled with a crack-cocaine addiction, per ESPN. At 13 years old, he was adopted by sports agent Roosevelt Barnes and moved to Fort Wayne, Ind.

With renewed structure provided by Barnes, Swanigan transformed his eating habits and started working out strenuously once a cardiologist said he could. He dropped to 260 pounds, per ESPN.

In 2015, Swanigan was named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball and was invited to the McDonald’s All-American game after leading Homestead High School to a state title. Two years later, it appeared that he would return to Utah to attend high school. He told The Salt Lake Tribune that he would transfer to East High, but a week later chose to stay in Indiana.

Swanigan initially committed to Michigan State before changing his mind and choosing the Boilermakers. He was touted “perhaps Purdue’s most-decorated recruit in school history,” per Bleacher Report.

“Caleb has definitely generated a lot of excitement,” Boilermakers coach Matt Painter told Bleacher Report at the time.

Swanigan worked out with the Utah Jazz in the summer of 2017 before the NBA draft that year.

“It definitely feels great to be home,” Swanigan said at the time. “It’s unbelievable to be from the city and coming back to hopefully be on the pro team, and having a chance to blossom.”

Swanigan played 75 NBA games over three seasons with the Trail Blazers and the Sacramento Kings. He had since been pursuing a career in rap music.