Willy Hernangmez (Madrid, 1994) lives under permanent scrutiny: in the NBA and in the national team. And the fact is that he spends his life proving that the minutes he asks for are more than earned. After an Olympic Games in which he has claimed himself as one of the next leaders of the Spanish team, he embarks on his sixth NBA season with a three-year contract with the Pelicans that may finally give him the stability he needs. In the middle of filming the challenge ‘Slam Dunk Mess Free Challenge’ of Old El Paso, Willy makes a break between his obligations and his training to speak with MARCA.
QUESTION: What feelings do you keep after your second Olympic Games?
ANSWER: They have been some Games that we were all looking forward to celebrating because they were already canceled last year due to the pandemic that we are suffering. There was a lot of illusion in them, I think all of us who were there could enjoy it. We have tried to make us forget a little about everything that we have spent these months in order to enjoy sports and above all to get smiles. And in the general sphere, I think Spain has done well winning medals. Although in basketball we have not done so well despite having given everything.
Q. That crossing before the US …
A. Yes, we were unlucky because of the new format with the draw, but I am happy to have been in my second Games and to have added matches with Spain and to try to leave my country at the top. Now to think about the European.
Q. Was there a taste of disappointment from falling into quarters?
A. No. I think that if we have warned about something, it is how badly accustomed we have been these years, winning medal after medal. We must assess how far we have come, qualifying for the Games, thanking everyone who participated in the Windows and then reaching the fourth. We must assess what we have done because other teams such as the Czech Republic or Slovenia were the first time they went and Italy had been away for many years.
Q. Did it affect something that during the preparation and during the tournament there was talk of the end of a generation, knowing that some heavyweights were going to retire?
A. It didn’t really affect the coexistence, which was a great experience with veteran players and experienced with young players. For the new ones it was a great lesson to be around to learn how to compete and what the enthusiasm for the national team is. But it is true that we knew it was a special tournament in that sense. Now you have to move on to maintain the level as much as possible.
P. On a personal level, you must be very happy, because you were one of the best in the National Team. Have you taken the step to be one of the leaders of the selection right now?
R. I have felt very comfortable this year, although I would have liked to have more responsibility to help the team more. Sometimes I felt like I was driving with the parking brake on. But all the minutes that I have played I have tried to give the maximum, which is a way of claiming that we are ready and that we want to take the next step, with head, with responsibility, with humility and with great enthusiasm for the future.
Q. He was a player from the second unit who became a player from the first unit throughout the tournament.
R. Well, that is something that is thought from outside, and it could be so, but this is a team sport and I accept my role, whatever it is. Sometimes you like it more than others and you always want to play more. I agreed to play ‘4’ at certain times or ‘5’ when I played. In which there was no discussion was giving 100% in the minutes that he was on the court.
Q. Now an uncertain future opens up for the selection after all that has been won, with a generational change. How do you see it?
R. It is a huge challenge for everyone and I think that seeing new faces of young people with a lot of talent who have already won things has to excite people. In the FEB the quarry is very powerful. I am convinced that we will give joy, we will try and try to make people enjoy the national team’s basketball.
Being an NBA player is something incredible, it has been my dream and I don’t think about Europe “
Q. What about Juancho, the Wolves’ refusal not to play, did it affect you in Tokyo?
R. It was a stick his injury, but it seemed more serious and then it was not. I have never seen a player train and work as hard to recover as my brother has. He did everything to be able to arrive in conditions and in the end he was. And yes it was a palace that they denied him to play two days before the first game.
P. For the good or the bad, that is the NBA.
R. Yes, we know where we are. Then it was shown that there was a handover. Within how big the NBA is, these are the little things that annoy and annoy a team. But we will return it to you.
Q. You have renewed three more years for the Pelicans. After a few years with fewer minutes of play than expected, you are not attracted to returning to play in the Euroleague?
R. My enthusiasm and motivation has always been to play in the NBA, and I don’t think of Europe. It has been my dream. Getting up every morning, going to training, the pavilions, the atmosphere … Being an NBA player is incredible. But the message is also to encourage those who start to play that if you have a dream, you have to chase it and even if things get difficult, even if you don’t play a lot and people send you home because they don’t see any possibilities, you don’t have to give up. . It is very difficult to be in the NBA and what I want to convey is that with effort and work you can be there for many years. Let no one tell you that it cannot be done.
Q. What do you expect this year at the Pelicans with a new coach in the figure of Willie Green?
R. I have already spoken with him and with the General Manager, with whom I have a good relationship, and I want to go there to train and show that I do not care who is ahead and that I want my place. I think it will be a season like the last ones, very hard, with good moments and not so good ones, with the obligation to take advantage of the minutes when there are them. This is my career and I’m used to it. If I play more, be prepared.
Q. You have already shown that you deserve more minutes with good numbers. What else do you have to do?
R. Well, my mentality this year is to enjoy, to be calm, to be able to train without the pressure of having only one year of contract. I have the stability of a three-year contract and that allows my head to enjoy playing basketball and working to improve. That said, they’ll pierce me tomorrow (laughs). My dream was to be in the NBA for many years and with this contract I can fulfill it.
The generational change in the national team is a huge challenge for everyone “
Q. There have been many changes in the Pelicans with the marches of Lonzo Ball, Steven Adamas or Eric Bledsoe and the arrival of Valanciunas. Aspiring to the Playoffs, what will your first postseason season be?
R. I think we have real chances by team and talent, to play the Playoffs. Valanciunas is Adams style, perhaps more of a shooter. Personally, Lonzo’s departure annoys me because I got along very well with Bledsoe, but I am happy with the arrival of Satoransky, with whom I agreed for two years in Seville, or Graham, with whom I played in Charlotte for three years. The important thing is to form a good group from the beginning. Led by Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, I think we can make the playoffs.
Q. What’s it like to play with Zion Williamson?
R. I would have liked him to have come with the United States national team so that people who have not seen him play, would have known him better. It is a real animal, it is an out of the ordinary, genetically unique. He is also a very good boy with excellent qualities and very young. His future will be to dominate the League for sure.
Q. Tell me what this Old El Paso ‘Slam Dunk Free Challenge’ consists of.
A. The first thing is to thank Andrew Wiggins who has sent me this solidarity challenge which is a precious initiative of Old El Paso to help underprivileged families with food donations. It is a pride to be one of the two Spanish players who do it, the other is Leticia Romero. It is a privilege to be part of any initiative of this type that tries to raise food, in this case, for the people who need it.
Q. And now Joe Ingles …
RS I sent the challenge to Joe Ingles to try to make a mate with an Old El Paso pocket tortilla in his hand. I don’t know if I can do it because it is not something easy, it is something different. But the important thing is to participate and help add food to this solidarity project.