PAYSON, Ill. (WGEM) -- To fully understand the transformation of Cody Hildebrand in only a year's time, one must grasp the type of player he was.
The Payson guard admits being one dimensional last season and worked diligently to expand his game.
"I definitely hit the weight room and got a lot stronger," Hildebrand said.
"I tried to work on my mid-range game and attack the basket more because last year I was strictly a shooter, and I didn't want to go inside much. This year I just worked on that the whole offseason and that really helped me a lot."
Indians head coach Brian Rea has pushed Hildebrand to become a more complete player.
"I just challenged him as much as humanly possible to be as great as he could be and not to waste a moment. He hasn't wasted too many moments," Rea indicated.
"It's the same thing now. I'm trying to get him to understand the season's over but it doesn't mean your career is over. You've got to keep working."
Hildebrand spearheaded the Indians run to their first sectional championship in program history. Along the way he averaged more than 21 points and three assists a game.
"Nothing will ever beat the feeling of playing at the Jacksonville Bowl and three fourth's of the (gym) was blue," Hildebrand said of the Class 1A Super-Sectional season ending loss to Madison.
"It was a great group to play with."
Hildebrand also has plenty of people in his corner.
He earned more than half of the 14,000 votes to win the People's Choice Award for WGEM Player of the Year.
"I'd like to thank the community, Coach Rea, and my teammates for making it possible for it to happen," Hildebrand said of winning the fans' vote.
"It does mean a lot and that also motivates me. I don't want to let anybody down and make them regret it."
As special as this season was Hildebrand remains unsatisfied and can't wait for the chance to have an even better campaign next winter.
"I think he knows what it takes now, and now he's going to have to take that next step to become a really elite player around the state," Rea said.
"I think he can do that and I'm looking forward to it."
Hildebrand seems to have a chip on his shoulder.
"Watching the state tournament this year, especially for me, really motivates me and that's my goal," he said.
"My goal ever since my freshman year was to win a regional, but now that we did that, won the sectional and made it all the way there, I just know it's real."
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