McSwain brings the energy for IU

Freddie McSwain just wanted some pizza.

To get a slice, he had a decision to make.

Between his freshman and sophomore years of high school, McSwain found fun in watching a local AAU team, the Coastal Crew Rebels, run around the court in Liberty County, Ga.

One day, after an open gym, the team was rewarded with boxes of fresh, hot pizza. McSwain wanted some, too, but there was a problem.

“They said I had to join the team to get the pizza,” McSwain said during a radio show appearance this season. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll join the team,’ because I was hungry. I tried out, they loved my athleticism and I was on the team.”

Thus began a winding, wild basketball odyssey for the freakishly athletic kid from southeast Georgia. These days, McSwain is as eager to grab rebounds as he was to grab pizza then.

The senior forward’s 16-rebound performance in Saturday’s loss to Michigan State was exactly the result Indiana needed from McSwain in his first start of the season.

It was also the kind of effort emblematic of an IU team and a player limited in skill, yet determined to play with toughness.

“That’s what he does every day,” teammate Juwan Morgan said of McSwain. “He attacks the glass relentlessly. The way we see it, nobody can keep him off the glass. As a result that’s what the 16 boards looks like.”

Saturday stood as a mostly shining performance for McSwain, his vigor against a bigger and more physical Spartans squad evident from the early moments onward.

IU coach Archie Miller inserted McSwain into the lineup for freshman Justin Smith, seeking to provide some interior defensive relief for Morgan against powerful MSU center Nick Ward.

It was only the second career start for McSwain, who received a similar starting assignment last February at Purdue.

“He’s playing better and he’s giving us some production,” Miller said. “He’s giving rebounding effort, he’s giving us another physical guy out there that can play in the post a little bit from a defensive perspective.

“… Moving forward, I don’t know if we’ll change back or not, but clearly the amount of minutes that he played and how hard he played (Saturday), it’s hard to duplicate 16 rebounds in a game like he did. He gave great effort.”

That much has gone unquestioned since McSwain joined the program from Neosho Community College in Kansas prior to the 2016-17 season. He tries hard, and tight end-like frame makes him a force on the boards, particularly on the offensive end.

His offensive rebounding rate of 17.2 percent leads the team would rank fourth nationally if McSwain played enough minutes to qualify, according to basketball statistics web site KenPom.com.

Finishing, along with other mostly fundamental tasks, has not come as easily to McSwain.

He had a rough night in IU’s previous loss at Ohio State, where he went 3-for-9 from the field and missed a handful of layups. Saturday, too, McSwain had a chance to give Indiana the lead on a pair of free throws with 1:38 remaining, but he missed both.

And yet it was still hard to find fault in McSwain’s game against the Spartans. Sure, it was far from perfect, but he played with passion and grit — two qualities that seemed to rub off on his teammates all evening.

It also impressed those on the opposing bench.

“That kid’s a tough kid,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, “and did a good job.”

All considered, McSwain filled his role admirably on Saturday. Whether he’ll remain in the starting lineup tonight at Rutgers, or return to his role as an energy man in reserve, is not clear.

Either way, with the Hoosiers’ in the midst of their latest one-day turnaround of the season, they’ll need energy and heart like the kinds McSwain provided Saturday.

McSwain, for his part, is eager to deliver.

“I just want to really just go out every day and just play my hardest,” McSwain said. “Every time opportunity is called, start or coming off the bench, I say just come in, help the team (and) do whatever to help the team win, really.”

6 comments

  1. This is a wonderful story and Freddie McSwain is a player I can really root for. Let’s hope Freddie can continue his great rebounding against Rutgers tonight!!!

  2. Loved his heart, effort and determination, not to mention his 16 rebounds against MSU. Since it is unlikely that he’ll play in the NBA, maybe he could be developed into an NFL tight end. There are at least two NFL Hall-of-Fame tight ends that played college basketball, and McSwain has as much or more raw athleticism as either of those two guys.

  3. The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.
    The jumpers in lane never fall for Freddie McSwain. Du-du-du….dah-dahhhhhh.
    And Newkirk, his triples, they clang about the same…
    The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.
    Our shooting stroke appears to have left again….Du-du-du….dah-dahhhhhh.

  4. After basketball season is over, McSwain should go to Coach Allen and do a Spring workout with the football team. Not eligible to play college football, a way to see what the football atmosphere is like. McSwain has the strength and other abilities to play football, as noted in previous post.

  5. If I’m some NFL GM, I spend my last draft pick in the upcoming draft to get McSwain, put him on the developmental squad and see what how he does over the course of a season of coaching. A 6′ 6″ tight end with his athletic ability who has not been beaten up playing college football? That could be a great “value” pick in an NFL draft. Stranger things have happened.

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