To be great, risks have to be taken. For Michael Swanegan, that risk involved moving thousands of miles across the country and away from his infant daughter. The one time hoops star at Pasadena City College was trying to break into the professional “NBA 2K League '', and playing against east coast opponents while in the westernmost state put Swanegan at a competitive disadvantage.
“In video gaming, latent speed and ping and delay is a big deal,” Swanegan says. “Me living in California when most of the 2K community lives on the east coast, I was always playing at a disadvantage.
I was playing with delay and with the highest ping possible, and I still had to play at a high level.”
Swanegan had been burned by this technological issue a year before, when he had entered the 2K draft and came away unselected. But while this stung in the moment, the soon-to-be father found that this “disappointment” was actually the best thing that could have happened to him.
“Looking back at it, I don’t see it in a negative light,” Swanegan says. “Two months after that draft, my daughter was born. So I’m looking at it like if I did get drafted, I would’ve missed all those months of her growing up. So I think it was God’s way of telling me ‘Be a father first.’”
A year later, Swanegan got his second chance and made the drastic move out to the east coast for two weeks to live with a stranger. Now blessed with the same server speed and ping as his competitors, Swanegan and his team dominated the tournament and caught the eye of scouts.
On March 13, Swanegan became the third round draft pick of the local Hawks Talon Gaming Club, oddly enough becoming one of the older players on the roster. While Swanegan is obviously a talented 2K player, he also shined at Pasadena, where he played for his dad.
“Playing for my dad helped our relationship blossom,” Swanegan says. “He was harder on me, and the most difficult thing was to make sure it didn’t look like he was favoring me. The first season I played for him, I didn’t even start. I came off the bench and didn’t play great, but he made it a point to make it known to everyone in the school that I had to earn it.”
While that real-world basketball experience helps Swanegan excel on the virtual court, his life experiences off it also have helped. Although he was an excellent player in high school, Swanegan admits to not taking school seriously and to not trying to network in a time before BallisLife and Overtime’s cameras were at every AAU game.
“It hit me when I saw close friends of mine since elementary school get scholarships to UCLA, UC-Riverside, and literally make it (to top schools),” Swanegan says. “I got stuck behind because I didn’t take things seriously.”
Swanegan went the community college route, and then later graduated with his four year degree. As he was working through a series of odd jobs, Swanegan was set on making it big in the 2K scene after investing in the game following his high school graduation.
“The world never sleeps, and things can change at the snap of a finger,” Swanegan says. “The biggest thing is that I don’t take anything for granted in regards to my job and life. People will take things for granted, and this (that you have) is not promised.”
Now a key contributor for Talon GC, Swanegan has taken on a leadership role for the squad. He recently scored 16 in a game, but he usually leaves the bucket-getting to players like Michael Diaz-Cruz and Caesar Martinez. Whether it be rebounding, making an extra pass, or rotating to stop a drive, Swanegan does what needs to be done.
Off the court, he tries to bring the team closer together, with one of the main methods being eating meals as a team rather than having the players break off outside of games and practices. Swanegan has said COVID-based restrictions make this more difficult than it usually would, but says there are still ways to help the team bond.
“Swann has brought a lot of determination to the team, a lot of focus,” coach Wesley Acuff says. “He leads by example and is always the first one in the gym and last one out. He’s been the leader we’ve needed to keep us on track. He constantly is great for our locker room and a great leader and personality to have on the team.”
Meanwhile, Swanegan has spent the last few months talking to his daughter through facetime. He says that before leaving California for Atlanta, he saw signs of his daughter one day following in his footsteps, at least in one aspect.
“She knows what the game is, and every time she walks in my room, she tries to get the controller and presses the buttons and looks at the TV screen,” Swanegan says. “So I think she’s a future gamer.”
Picture Courtesy of Hawks Talon Gaming Club
You can contact the author at Joseph.A.Dycus@gmail.com or on twitter at @joseph_dycus .