SIOUX CITY -- If it weren’t for one year removed from the Morningside College men’s basketball team, Tyler Borchers’ career likely wouldn’t have turned out the way it did.
At the end of his time with Le Mars High School, Borchers originally committed to Morningside thinking he was going to have an immediate impact with the Mustangs.
After all, his career with the Bulldogs was a successful one. He scored 497 points his senior year for the Bulldogs, which was during the 2014-15 season. Borchers crossed the 1,000-point mark with Le Mars, too, as he scored 1,115 points.
However, former University of South Dakota men’s basketball coach Craig Smith contacted Borchers for his services, and USD offered Borchers a preferred walk-on position with the team.
Borchers accepted the offer, and he switched his commitment from the Mustangs to the Coyotes.
“I looked at it as an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down going Division I and living that dream,” Borchers said.
Borchers felt sick to his stomach having to tell Mustangs coach Jim Sykes the news, and Sykes also felt disappointed on the other end of the line.
Borchers set his goals on USD, and off he went to Vermillion.
Borchers arrived to South Dakota with the hopes to make an impact right away, but that didn’t happen.
Smith -- now the head coach at Utah State -- gave Borchers a redshirt meaning that Borchers didn’t see any playing time during his one and only season with the Coyotes.
Borchers didn’t complain, however.
He went to practice and other daily activities with the mindset of getting better for himself daily and did whatever he was asked to better the Coyotes, too.
Things didn’t go quite the way Borchers had wanted.
“It was a tough year,” Borchers said. “I was working out every day of the week and lifting weights and doing basketball workouts. That was on top of practices and being on scout team and film and all that good stuff.”
Borchers admitted that he was undersized at 6-foot-6 to play in the post at the Division I level, but being at practice every day taught Borchers how to be stronger down low. Borchers was slated to play at power forward and sometimes at center.
“I relied on my physicality more than my height,” Borchers said. “That’s where I got my work done.”
After the season ended, Smith and Borchers met for their routine meeting, and both agreed it would be best if Borchers went somewhere else.
“I decided I was going to head to USD, and there wasn’t even another school in mind where I wanted to go to,” Borchers said. “I knew I was going to Morningside. I don’t have anything against USD, but I was much happier here at Morningside,” Borchers said. “I fit the system better. I met some great people and coaches here. I really enjoyed my time. I wouldn’t change a thing the way I went about it.”
When Borchers was on his way back to Le Mars after leaving South Dakota for the final time, he called Sykes.
Sykes invited Borchers back to Sioux City to have a chat, and the conversation left no stone unturned. There were no hard feelings and there was mutual desire for Borchers to put on a Mustangs uniform.
Sykes and the Mustangs welcomed Borchers back with open arms.
Borchers ended his Mustangs career by getting a first-team nod as an NAIA All-American, his first as a first-teamer and third All-American honor.
Borchers left his name in the Morningside record books. He has scored the program’s fourth-most points (1,928) and holds records in career field-goal percentage (66.9), single-season FG percentage (70.6) and most field goals with 756.
On the season, Borchers averaged 19.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He was a 62 percent shooter.
“He’s a great offensive player, and everyone looks at his points and rebounds and all the records he set, but what people don’t appreciate is that he’s a great passer,” Sykes said. “He had 234 assists in four years, and for a big guy, that’s a lot. … His growth there was huge.”
Borchers led the Mustangs with 27 blocks, and fittingly enough, Sykes believed Borchers’ biggest impact was on the defensive end.
Borchers served as a consummate middle linebacker when the Mustangs were on defense. Borchers saw the floor well from his post position, and communicated where screens were coming from on the perimeter.
“Tyler’s IQ is off the charts,” Sykes said. “He sees the game, he has a feel for the game and he’s not one-dimensional. He’s been the (GPAC) defensive player of the year the last two years in the conference. He saw things before they happened.”
Sykes remembered talking with opposing coaches and how much they changed their offensive game plan to try to make Borchers less of a threat.
“That’s a pretty good compliment for him,” Sykes said.
Like many others in the area, both Borchers and Sykes try not to play the ‘what-if’ game and wonder if Morningside would’ve won the national championship this season.
The Mustangs were ranked No. 1 and were undefeated for most of the season until Briar Cliff beat Morningside at Newman Flanagan Center on Feb. 1.
Morningside won its first game of the NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament on March 11 in Sioux Falls against College of the Ozarks 99-58, but the tournament was canceled during a Mustangs practice the following day.
On the bus ride back to Sioux City following the cancellation, Borchers tried to think about what had happened, but it didn’t sink in right away.
“We really liked our draw, and we felt really prepared,” Borchers said. “I thought we were rolling. I thought we had some good things going. … They shut us down, and that was it.
“We’ve tried to move on and look at some highlights from the season,” Borchers added. “That seemed to help, but it was still tough.”
Borchers is now home on his family cattle farm in Le Mars, and hopes to have an agricultural background for a career. He majored in agriculture at Morningside.
Borchers has been job searching, but due to the pandemic, it’s been tough for him to secure one. He wants to be an agricultural lender at a bank.
The former Bulldogs standout also hasn't ruled out looking into being an assistant under Le Mars boys' basketball coach Dave Irwin, if Borchers is around the Le Mars area.