DALLAS – Maybe it was by design or possibly a mere coincidence, but when the Sacramento Kings were in Dallas on Sunday to play the Mavericks, the lockers of Yogi Ferrell and Homestead graduate Caleb Swanigan were next to each other at American Airlines Center.
Ferrell, 26, also a Hoosier native who starred at Indiana University, is in his second season with the Kings. He came off the bench and made some nice contributions against one of his two former teams in a big road win for a young Sacramento group still finding itself.
Swanigan, who starred at Purdue, came to the Kings via a February trade with Portland, which had drafted him 26th overall in 2017. He didn't play against Dallas.
“Yeah, all Indiana guys are going to have connections,” said Ferrell, who honed his skills at Park Tudor in Indianapolis. “No matter where I go, we even got Kyle (Guy) too, so we're always talking trash about who had the best either high school team or college team. It's just great to have those connections from Indiana.”
Swanigan, too, sees having fellow Indiana natives for teammates as a huge positive.
“It's funny, me, (Ferrell) and Kyle are all guys that's from Indiana. Very competitive, but we come from the same area, so we love basketball also,” he said. “It's fun. It's fun to see familiar faces.”
The third Indiana native on the Kings, Guy, is an Indianapolis product on a two-way contract, meaning he will spend much of his rookie season with the Kings' G League affiliate in Stockton, California.
And Stockton is a place Swanigan, who has appeared in just four NBA games this season, has come to know as he's played two games in the G League, averaging 10.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.
“It's been great (playing in Stockton),” Swanigan said. “Anytime they give me an opportunity to go down there and play, I play just because I love basketball. Just got to wait until you can play at the level you want to, but it's always happened that way for a lot of young guys. It's part of the NBA.”
Ferrell had appeared in 19 games going into Wednesday night's contest against the Thunder, averaging 6 points, 1.8 assists and 1.3 rebounds. But for new head coach Luke Walton, the IU product's numbers only begin to illustrate just how valuable Ferrell is to the team.
“Not just (what he brings) to the bench but to the culture, he's the ultimate professional,” the former Lakers coach said. “He wasn't in the rotation early in the year, continues to work, stay ready. We had injuries and he steps right in and helps us go. He gives us a pace that we need without (the injured point guard De'Aaron) Fox on the court. He plays hard every single possession and he's always a threat to score the ball. He's been great to have.”
Walton has a much smaller sample size to draw from when it comes to Swanigan but sees plenty to like in the 22-year-old's game.
“Well, he's a very intelligent player,” Walton said. “He understands how to play, understands coverages, reads, very skilled passer, nice touch around the hoop.”
Along with Dave Joerger, who was fired in April, Walton is the second coach Ferrell has played for in Sacramento. But Ferrell really likes the positive vibes Walton has brought to the organization.
“I love it,” Ferrell said. “He gives us a lot of freedom, especially for me in that second unit. We're just able to get out and run in transition, shoot threes. It's been fun.”
Swanigan concurs that the regime change has been overwhelmingly positive for him and the entire roster.
“Luke's been doing well. He's come in, he's been encouraging to players,” he said. “He hasn't stepped on any toes or tried to assert any dominance or (saying) things have to be this. He just comes in and makes you feel like we're in it together. I feel like that's the most important thing for a coach.”
Swanigan has played seven games for the Kings, three under Joerger and four for Walton. And despite this lack of steady NBA minutes, the move from Portland has been a positive for the former Boilermaker and not just because he shares a locker room with Ferrell.
“It's gone well,” Swanigan said. “The people in Sacramento, I like a lot. They're very embracing. The team had a lot of changes this summer, so it just takes patience. Guys are coming in and working. That's the biggest and most important thing, so it's been good.”