Bisons basketball star wins national award


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University of Manitoba

Norwood Flats

For just the second time, a University of Manitoba men’s basketball player has won the Dr. Peter Mullins Trophy as the nation’s U Sports rookie of the year.

Forward Simon Hildebrandt, who turned 20 on March 17, became the first Bison to win the men’s award since Eric Bridgeland (now a coach for the University of Redlands of NCAA Division III) won it in 1990.

The six-foot-nine Hildebrandt averaged a team-leading 16.5 points per game, shooting an impressive 41.2 per cent from behind the three-point line. His play helped his team to a conference-best 18-2 record, the best record in the program’s history, but Hildebrandt was quick to deflect the praise.

<p>Supplied photo by Dave Mahussier</p>
                                <p>Simon Hildebrandt sizes up a free throw.</p>

Supplied photo by Dave Mahussier

Simon Hildebrandt sizes up a free throw.

“I’m just super grateful,” he said. “I know this kind of sounds cringey or cliché, but in my eyes, this is really a team award. If we’re not 18 and two in conference play, I don’t think this award happens. I was just so lucky to be put in the position I was.”

Hildebrandt credited his teammates with taking care of areas of the game that he doesn’t view as his strengths, freeing him to play his game.

“We have so many guys who do things that I can’t. I’m a gifted shooter, that’s probably one of my big strengths, but I’m not the best rebounder, not the best defensive player,” he said. “So everyday in practice I’m playing against these guys who are making me better, and everyday in games… they did everything that allows me to be successful on offence.”

After a bit of prodding, Hildebrandt did open up a bit about his personal play, saying that he shot the ball from deep range well this season — as evidenced by his shooting percentage. Because he was a threat to score from beyond the arc, defenders were forced to play tight on him, opening up opportunities to drive the ball and use his size to get into the paint.

Hildebrandt, who grew up in Norwood Flats in St. Boniface, spent the previous two years playing ball at prep schools in Ontario and Connecticut, and before that he played high school at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute.

He said the return to Manitoba has been a special experience. In fact, when coach Kirby Schepp recruited Hildebrandt, part of his pitch was that much of the team was made up of local players, and that Manitoba had a chance to make a mark on the nation’s U Sports basketball world.

“The fact that we’re a really good team with most of our team made up of local guys, that’s huge for the province of Manitoba. It really shows that Manitoba does produce high-calibre basketball players,” Hildebrandt said.

<p>Supplied photo by Dave Mahussier</p>
                                <p>U Sports rookie of the year Simon Hildebrandt drives the basket for a layup.</p>

Supplied photo by Dave Mahussier

U Sports rookie of the year Simon Hildebrandt drives the basket for a layup.

Coach Schepp commended Hildebrandt on his work this year.

“It’s a really big deal for Simon and our program and really the basketball community. Winning a national award like that is very difficult to accomplish and a tremendous accomplishment for him,” Schepp said. “We’re really proud of Simon and the amount of work he put in and how far he came in a very short time here.”

Schepp said Hildebrandt is a “tremendous talent,” with the ability to score in a number of ways, which combined with his size, makes him a difficult matchup for anybody. He commended his hard work, yet easygoing attitude, which prevents him from getting too high or too low.

Cody Sellar

Cody Sellar
Community Journalist

Cody Sellar is the reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review West. He is a lifelong Winnipegger. He is a journalist, writer, sleuth, sloth, reader of books and lover of terse biographies. Email him at or call him at 204-697-7206.

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