A 5th-year senior’s pursuit to play basketball


by Brock Borgeson, Sports Editor

“Last July he called me crying,” assistant coach Brandon Stromer said, as he remembers when he got a call from fifth-year senior basketball player Tyler Anderson.

Anderson had been through a school transfer, the death of his grandfather, lingering back issues and a separated shoulder that sidelined him for nearly all of the 2014-15 basketball season.

Stromer would be bracing himself for the next item added to the laundry list of ailments and trails Anderson has endured during his college career.

The Injury

Anderson separated his shoulder pinning the ball against the backboard in the 2014-15 season opener against Gustavus Adolphus on Nov. 15. He tried to return, but to no avail.

Summer ball was his first chance to get back on the court and prepare for next year, which would be his fifth year in college after transferring to Simpson from Division II Truman State in Missouri midway through his sophomore year.

The 6-foot-3, 205 pound versatile forward, who relies on athleticism and aggressiveness, made a jump stop in a summer game against Central, a play that has been repeated numerous times since it came in vogue at the turn of the century.

But this time, Anderson didn’t hear the squeak of his shoes. He heard something else.

“My knee just popped,” Anderson said. “I was like, ’What?’ (The doctors) told me I tore my ACL.”

When Anderson called up Stromer in July, Anderson was counting the months between his injury and Simpson’s basketball season, which begins practice in mid-October. Some athletes return more quickly than others, but the general timeframe for recovery is six to nine months.

“I was doing the math in my head and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m not going to be able to play basketball again,’” Anderson said. “I went to the doctor and talked to the trainer and they said, ‘If you work hard, you can get back in six months.’ Just getting through (rehab) so I can play is what I’ve been thinking the whole time.”

The Journey

“Getting back” to the court didn’t just enter as a goal for Anderson in July, but it has driven the last five years of Anderson’s life.

While on basketball scholarship at Truman State, Anderson ran into some back issues. In addition, the West Des Moines native found out his grandfather wasn’t doing well.

The prospects of playing at Truman State due to his back and the idea of being away from his sick grandfather eventually pushed him back to Simpson and central Iowa. The irony is that he was close to being here all along.

Stromer described that at Division III you recruit fringe Division II and NAIA players, and that’s how you win titles. Anderson was one of those guys he thought fit that mold, and he was very close to stealing him from schools like Truman State.

“I recruited Tyler at Valley High School his senior year,” Stromer said. “Nearing the end of his senior year, the head coach, Matt Woodley, who played at Drake, gets hired at Truman State and sees Tyler at the Central Iowa Metropolitan League All-Star game. It turns out that Tyler is the MVP of the game, and he gets signed on the spot. I was kind of heartbroken, but somehow life finds a way and he comes back to Simpson.”

Despite his struggles at Truman State, Anderson didn’t buckle but kept pushing to play. The Simpson coaching staff learned of his situation, secured his NCAA release and made him a Storm.

As a sophomore, Anderson scored 9.3 PPG and reeled in 4.6 RPG and was going to be one of the key cogs before having his junior year cut short due to the shoulder injury.

At that time, Anderson worked on his lower half to get back to the court. Rehab and braces were provided for his shoulder. Then they were provided for his knee.

At Division III, with no scholarship and glory that playing Division I hoops provides, a lot of student-athletes would ditch their drive and either quit the sport or transfer elsewhere but not Anderson.

“I mean, I have been playing basketball since I was a kid,” Anderson said. “I only have one more year left, and I just wanted to be a part of something.”

Even without getting buckets or reeling in rebounds, Anderson has made sure he has been a “part of something.”

“He’s been that glue,” Stromer said. “Every day on the sideline, if he wasn’t watching practice he was pounding his knee on the sideline, and that would hurt my knee which is healthy. To Tyler’s credit and as a testament to his character, he has been resilient, and he has tried to get back to do what he loves.”

The return

On Jan. 23 against Luther, Anderson finally made it back. He played only five minutes, but those five minutes mean a lot when you’ve been sitting for 40 minutes every game.

“At this point I am just happy with playing, that’s really it. I just want to play,” Anderson said. “I had goals before I got hurt but now I just want to play. I want to do whatever to help the team win.”

On Jan. 27 it really came full circle when he was forced to face his demons against Central, the same school he tore his ACL against. Anderson didn’t just play. He excelled, scoring seven points in 10 minutes in an 86-78 win.

Simpson will likely need the versatile wing as it makes a push for first place at 12-7, 5-3 before hosting Wartburg on Wednesday. If anything, Anderson won’t let himself or his team quit under the doubts cast against them after being picked last in the IIAC preseason coaches’ poll.

“I was a leader last year and if I were to have quit it would have meant that I would take the easy way out,” Anderson said. “I’m not trying to do that.”