SportsWilly Hernangomez: “I know that Scariolo is going to demand more from...

    Willy Hernangomez: “I know that Scariolo is going to demand more from me than anyone else”

    Spain’s top scorer (17.3 points on average) and rebounder (six catches) in the World Cup has had more than one fight. The demand is maximum for Willy Hernangomez (Madrid, 29 years old) after being the MVP of the last Eurobasket won in Berlin. The coach, Sergio Scariolo, asks him for more defensive application. And the Spanish center, a recent signing from Barcelona after his time in the NBA, accepts the challenge. This Friday against Latvia (11:45, La 2), at the start of the second phase, Willy will ask for the ball again.

    Ask. After last Eurobasket, do you feel like you have to be more of a leader now?

    Answer. Honestly, I feel the same way, because of the responsibility and the desire I have to be able to help the team in whatever way is needed. I hope the result is similar. I am aware of what I have to contribute. I have been searching for this responsibility for many years, and learning from others who had it.

    Q. Do you enjoy that pressure?

    R. Wow, a lot. Especially about playing basketball, training, being on the court with The Family. All of us who come in the summer are to compete, be together and have a good time. Now I can play many minutes, which is what I like, I can enjoy myself and I can compete to win.

    Q. How do you define yourself?

    R. I think that a relevant player, who wants to attract attention and be important, is not achieved only through talent in today’s basketball. There are colleagues who have a lot of talent and have not had a long career or have not been able to compete for titles. I consider myself a player who, thanks to my parents’ genes, has some talent, but my way of working, my sacrifice, makes me the player I am and the one I want to become. Without work and without discipline you cannot become one of the best.

    Q. How did you endure a season in the NBA in which you did not have the prominence you expected?

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    R. It was a very long, hard season, in which I was not at all expecting the role I had in New Orleans. I wasn’t told I was going to have that role either. From the board and in training they always told me that I was going to have an important role. But the games went by, 20, 40, I had meetings with them and I didn’t understand the situation. I asked to change, to be transferred. I thought I would go to a place where I could continue growing and compete, and they didn’t let me leave. This summer I decided that I didn’t want to continue in New Orleans, a city where I have been very happy in my career. What I want is to play. After seven years in the United States, I now have an exciting time ahead of me at Barcelona.

    Q. Real Madrid had the right of first refusal. What happened?

    R. It is very simple. It is the summer when my mind was most open to returning to Europe. Obviously, I’m from Madrid, I’m a Real Madrid youth player, and I asked them if they were willing to have my services, but when they don’t value you, it’s not a good place. The situation with Real Madrid remained that way, we continued talking to many clubs in Spain and Europe, and there was interest from many teams. But I wanted to be in Spain, play at home, and when I began to have more offers I spoke again with Real Madrid, and when I finally saw that there was no way in the end each one had to make the best decision. Barcelona has been there since the first day I showed interest in returning to Europe, they have supported me, they have excited me about a project and they have trusted me.

    Q. Do you have great self-confidence?

    R. Yes. You always have to trust yourself because no one is going to do it for you. In basketball and in every job, you have to trust what you put in. I am a very positive person. I know that it takes a lot of work and discipline for things to work out. If you don’t trust yourself, you’re not going to score baskets.

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    Willy Hernangomez, in a promotional image before the World Cup.
    Willy Hernangomez, in a promotional image before the World Cup.KAAN VERDIOGLU PHOTOGRAPHY

    Q. Where does that discipline come from?

    R. It has been due to the passage of years, experience, the advice of my family, my coach and physical trainer. When you see that with that discipline you are achieving things, and that your body and your way of playing basketball improve, you see that that is the right thing to do. There is a lot to sacrifice and not everyone is willing. I want to become the best possible player I can, and until I am, I won’t stop.

    Q. How do you handle Scariolo’s quarrels?

    R. Sergio makes you look for your limits. You take the anger depending on the moment. We are at 200 beats. With the relationship we have had for years, I know that he wants the best for me. I know that he is going to demand more from me than anyone else in the national team because he wants the best, because he knows that I can help the team. And he knows it, because I have told him, that I know that he is going to demand it from me, that he is going to pressure me, that sometimes I will be angry and will accept advice better or worse. I know he does it for my good. Scariolo seeks perfection. That’s how he is as a person and as a coach. The smallest detail must be perfect. I trust Sergio one hundred percent and he trusts me and the team. That’s why we’ve done so well in recent years.

    Q. Do you accept those reprimands well then?

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    R. Yes, they are for good. When a coach doesn’t tell you off or doesn’t demand things from you, he’s not really interested in you. If the coach is on top and tells you off, it means he is interested in you and wants the best for you. Sergio has shown me. I am full of him in the national team and hopefully in the future in a team because he is one of the best.

    Q. How has it been to change the connection with Lorenzo Brown for Juan Nunez?

    R. With Juan it is a relationship similar to the one he had with Lorenzo, very intelligent players on the court, with a lot of passing ability, aggressive towards the basket. Obviously, with different experiences. Lorenzo had been in the NBA and the Euroleague. Juan is coming out of his shell and has a golden opportunity before him. He knows we trust him. I personally am going to demand a lot from him during the games, that he be focused, that he always give a little more. He is an exceptional kid, we need him. I need a player to organize the team, Juan and Alberto [Diaz]I really like playing with them and the connection is getting stronger.

    Q. What stands out about the next rivals, Latvia and Canada?

    R. Latvia is playing a great championship. They are all shooters. He has great outsiders and little ones who are very talented. With the absence of Porzingis, the approach is different from that of Canada. Against Latvia it will be a much more external match in which there will not be as much paint, we have to be smart. Canada’s party [el domingo] It will be super tough, physical, with very talented people in all positions from one to five. We risk our lives.

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