When Tim Miles walked into the interview room following Nebraska’s 85-68 win against Delaware State on Friday night, he was not alone as he usually is. Junior center Tanner Borchardt, a walk-on from Gothenburg (Neb.) was with him.
“I’d just like to introduce the newest scholarship member of the Huskers, Tanner Borchardt,” Miles said.
How did the 6-foot-8, 265-pound center learn the news?
“Santa brought a little a present to the locker room,” Borchardt said.
“You’ll see it on Twitter later,” Miles cut in.
Santa Miles had one last gift to deliver last night.
— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) December 23, 2017
“I got a little Christmas cookie that said ‘congrats,’ and then I got a shower full of teammates for about a minute, just kind of a jumping huddle,” Borchardt continued. “What a blessing.”
Three years ago, Borchardt was going to class at Nebraska as a regular student. He had excelled on both the football field and the basketball court for Gothenburg, but ultimately chose not to pursue an athletic career in college.
However, Borchardt heard about the walk-on tryouts for the basketball team back in 2015 and gave it a shot. The coaches liked what they saw and invited him to join the team. He played in eight games, going 3-for-3 from the field for six points and grabbing nine rebounds.
However, at the end of the season, Borchardt decided to return to his old lifestyle as a student, leaving the team.
Borchardt almost immediately regretted his decision. When injuries struck the team and Nebraska needed another practice body, however, the door for Borchardt opened once again. After a successful practice session preparing the team to play against Purdue’s monster front court in late January, Borchardt officially rejoined the team prior to Nebraska’s game against Michigan State on Feb. 2.
Borchardt attacked the offseason with renewed fervor and transformed his body to the point where Miles was talking him up as a potential contributor prior to the season.
“I could tell, just the way my body was changing and the way I was moving on the court and the way that the coaches were talking to me and the confidence they had in me during the summer,” Borchardt said. “They just looked at me different I think, or I looked at them different; something clicked and I really thought I had a shot to earn that scholarship and help contribute to the team.”
This season, Borchardt has played in nine games as part of a three-headed center rotation. He’s scored six points and grabbed 16 rebounds. And now his contributions have been recognized in terms of a scholarship for the spring semester.
“It’s well-deserved,” Miles said. “Tanner’s helped us in games. He’s changed his body, put himself into a situation where I feel confident that when we do need him — now, we’ve been playing smaller rather than bigger — but the Big Ten’s a different beast too. We’re proud of him and happy to ease the load a little bit for the family.”
Miles said that earning that vacant scholarship was Borchardt’s goal all along.
“When Tanner joined us last year and was with us this summer, I think this summer finally I saw him turning the corner, so to speak, in terms of feeling more comfortable, more confident,” Miles said. “I just felt like, and he and I talked about this, his goal was to earn the scholarship for the second semester that was open, and he more than earned it. As I watched him develop, I have great confidence in him and still think that in any game, I’m ready to put him in.”
From giving up the game to walking on through a tryout to leaving the team and then being welcomed back, Borchardt’s journey at Nebraska has been a wild one. The latest chapter in his story should stand as a source of inspiration for athletes everywhere.
In the end, hard work does pay off.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.