In the genes: Next Swogger generation living up to family name
Going up against a Swogger always is a challenge, especially when it comes to basketball. Going up against two Swoggers is an extremely daunting task.
Especially if you are another Swogger.
“I’m more motivated because I know they’re great players,” Jordyn Swogger said, “and I want to play just as hard as them.”
Basketball’s been a way of life to the Swogger clan, and life’s been particularly good this season. Jordyn Swogger’s senior year at Tyrone has gone really well so far – she’s help lead the Lady Eagles to an 11-4 record and first place in the Mountain League.
One of Tyrone’s four losses was by six points to Bellwood-Antis and her cousins, Bailey, a senior, and Karson, a freshman. Bellwood enters this week 12-2 and gearing up for a run at a second straight appearance in the District 6 Class AA finals.
“This is my favorite year by far,” Bailey Swogger said of enjoying a successful season with her younger sister. “We’ve been practicing together our whole lives. It’s nice to finally get to play with her.”
Nice for them and their teams, not so much for the opposition. All three of the Swogger girls are averaging double figures, showing the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree.
The Swoggers, of course, are the granddaughters of the late former Altoona High boys coach, John Swogger. After the elder Swogger stepped off the bench, he remained active in the area for decades teaching the game to young people as a private instructor, and his sons carried on that tradition of athletics. Camps were held that brought out the Swogger sons, their wives and the kids – “It was a big family thing,” Jordyn Swogger said.
“They’ve worked very hard at the game. They’ve certainly carried on the tradition, and you can see their grandfather’s influence. He was a big factor in their lives as well as a big factor with their fathers,” Bellwood girls coach Jim Swaney said. “It’s a great family.”
Jordyn said she first started to play basketball when she was 5 years old. Bailey was playing organized ball by the time she was in second grade. Both started out in the Altoona Area School District before finding their way to their current schools in junior high.
“My pap was giving lessons, and we always wanted to go,” said Bailey, whose dad, Jimmy, carries on with the basketball instruction his father started. “Basketball was such a big deal in our family. I loved it. I was not forced into it.”
The seniors games are similar with different nuances. Jordyn Swogger might have the edge in overall athleticism, as evidenced by her position as one of the top sprinters in District 6 and the fact that she’ll most likely be running track at the next level.
“She’s just a true competitor,” Tyrone coach Luke Rhoades said of Jordyn, who was averaging 16.0 points, 4.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 steals through Tyrone’s first 12 games. “You can tell that she’s been around the game and wants to be the best she can be.”
Also a track star in the spring, Bailey Swogger has devoted a lot of time into mastering more difficult finesse moves with her dribble. Averaging 10.1 points this year, she enters the second half of the season 38 points away from 1,000 for her career, and she’s figuring to continue playing basketball next year at a college like Juniata or St. Vincent.
But the senior cousins both play the wing, both are 5-foot-7, and they even played together in complementary roles for the PA Blue Thunder AAU club a few years ago after starting out as opponents on different teams.
They’ve returned to being foes when they ended up at their rival schools.
“I guess whoever wins has bragging rights,” Bailey said.
Playing against her cousin, though, was a bit of a double-edged sword.
“I’m a little more cautious. I don’t want to hurt her. She’s still my cousin. I don’t want to do anything to get her mad at me,” Bailey said. “We [the schools] are pretty big rivals, so I don’t like when Tyrone wins at all. But I do like it, I appreciate when she was athlete of the week. I’m glad when she does good.”
Jordyn wasn’t very happy when Bellwood beat Tyrone back on Jan. 6.
“It’s definitely tough playing against my cousins,” said Jordyn, whose other cousin, Karson, is averaging 14.1 points per game. “It’s very hard to have my whole family congratulating me even though we lost.”
That’s not the only thing that isn’t always easy to deal with. With the Swogger name comes expectations.
“My dad [Johnny] was the point guard at Altoona, and everyone told me he was one of the best around, so it definitely is hard having that reputation to live up to and the expectations that my dad had playing for me when he played for my grandpa,” Jordyn said. “Sometimes it can be hard because of how good all my family is.”
“I definitely felt more pressure when my pap would come. He knew so much about basketball, and my dad does. I’d be afraid to mess up,” Bailey said.
However, the cousins agreed that’s a small price to pay for success.
“I love being known as a Swogger, because everyone is always like ‘Those Swoggers are so good at basketball,'” Jordyn said. “I definitely work hard to live up to the name.”
“It’s definitely better than it is worse,” Bailey added.