Willy Hernangómez (Madrid, 1994) has to draw dozens of kids who come to his step. It's meal time on the children's campus that bears his last name, but children only have eyes for their idol. The Madrilenian responds with hand clashes and a hug, before sitting down with ABC to review last season and the challenges that will be opened this year, key in his NBA career since he ends contract and will be a free agent.
-Is it reflected in these children?
-Of course, because when I was little I dreamed of being a player one day and I was like them. I think that the illusion that a child has is the greatest and many times that illusion serves as inspiration during the season. This love that I get these days I feel it later throughout the year, which is very hard.
– Absorb so much the NBA?
-Yes, during the season you do not have time for anything other than the NBA. The first year I took advantage to do something more sightseeing, but in the last two I have only dedicated myself to training, playing and resting. You are so tired, that the day you have free just want to rest and stay at home.
-Does the physical or the mental cost more?
-The physical issue is hard and we are prepared for it. Mentally they are very long seasons. You have to be patient and push the pressure a bit, but it gets complicated. That is why the psychological work behind each one is important and you must also have people next to you who support you in difficult times.
– Who do you ask for that support?
-I'm lucky to have my brother in the same league and that makes us support each other and understand each other well. But there's also Ricky, the Gasol brothers or Calderón who play a bit like older brothers with us. I, every week, talk by phone with Pau. If I have any downtime or any problem, I pick up the phone and I know it will be there. He has behaved very well both with me and with my brother. We have no blood ties, but we are family too. This is what I consider. To him and the rest of the Spaniards who are in the NBA
-And how close has Álex Abrines' situation lived?
-Álex is a very affectionate, extroverted and kind person. I have a very good relationship with him, because I've known him for a long time and we played a lot together in the lower categories of the national team. That's why, when I knew what was happening to him, I was very shocked. That a person so close, which is almost your family because of what I was saying before, is having a hard time and that you can not do anything to help him cause you to suffer a lot. I was very worried about him. We tried to talk and give him our support, but he decided that the best thing was to cut and get away from everything. Reset the head Now it seems that everything is overcome and to see him again happy is a joy. I think it will come back stronger than ever. He has shown that sometimes a disconnection stage does not hurt.
-It is complicated to take that step …
-It is that what Álex has done is very brave. Not as a basketball player, but as a person. Recognizing that problem, overcoming it and making it public is very brave. He has fought and he has succeeded. I'm happy for him.
– Is it long to be so long without playing?
-We miss competing, but I love having so much free time because I can train and work to improve my game. It is the only part of the season in which we can train. During the season we do not have time for that.
-What has been proposed to improve this summer?
-I wanted to improve the explosiveness to be faster and aggressive with the hoop and have more speed and agility to defend smaller players. They are being very hard workouts. I'm also working hard on the launch. Every day I make more than a thousand shots to basket from different positions. In the end it is a matter of adding things to my game to go little by little as a better player. The good thing is that I know that I have a lot of room for improvement.
– Is he a work obsessed?
-A little, yes. I arrived in Spain in April. I was on vacation for three days and I started training now. I have more than 60 physical sessions in all this time and more than 30 basketball, so I have barely left aside the basketball at this time.
– Do you already know something about your future?
– Yes, I will continue one more year linked to the Hornets. I am very happy and they have told me several times that they are very happy with me. The coach, the general manager and even Michael Jordan himself (owner of the franchise) told me, but it's hard to play at the end, because we are many and there are not so many minutes. This has to be an important year for me, because next summer I will be a free agent and I will be able to choose my future. I need to gain consistency, improve and have some regularity.
-Has your season been disappointing?
On a personal level I expected much more, but you have to understand that the coach was new, that he had to do a lot of tests and that has meant that we did not have regularity with many of the players. Not only me, but many others. I trust that this year will be different, because we already know the game and the coach knows us and knows what he can demand of each one.
-It has to be a year to take a step forward …
-Yes, I think I've shown many times that I can play there. Now it's a matter of being patient and taking the opportunity. I hope it arrives and that I can play regularly 20 minutes a game to prove my worth to help the team. I want to be patient and optimistic.
-He was seen enjoying a lot in the ACB final …
– Man, is that I am very Real Madrid! I liked the games a lot, I have friends at Barcelona, but I think Real Madrid deserved to win the League for everything they had done during the season.
– If I returned to Europe, would I do it to Real Madrid?
-I was very happy as a Real Madrid squad player, then when I was in the first team as well and now, every time I come back, the fans have always shown me a lot of love. If in the future I go back to Europe, I do not think I'll do it, of course Real Madrid would be my first choice.
-And how Real Madrid understands that Mirotic has signed for Barcelona?
-Is hard to understand. Niko grew up in the quarry of Real Madrid and I still think it's a Real Madrid feeling. But in the end, returning to Spain, where he has lived for so many years, is something that he wanted. Not only because of him, because if he had only thought of him he might have stayed in the United States, but there are times when you have to think about family and children. They are going to be very good in Spain. You have chosen Barcelona because it is an opportunity that is unique. He had a very good offer and has done what he thought was best for him. It's going to be strange to see him in a different color than white, but Niko deserves our support even if he's going to play in another team.
-By much as one wants to leave behind the past stages, that internal feeling of which you spoke, it costs to make change …
-Of course it is complicated. They are mixed feelings. But it is your personal decision and you have to support him. Although I will continue wanting Madrid to win, of course. I think that in any case he deserves the respect of all the Madridistas for everything he gave when he played there.
-It is one of the chosen ones for the World Cup, are you happy?
-Yes, I am very happy and waiting for the concentration to begin. This is a very complicated World Cup and I'm looking forward to it. I want to go there to bite and try to win.
-How does Pau's absence influence the team?
– That Pau is not a pity, but it is an opportunity for players like me, that we have to take a step forward. I've been in the national team for years, I've already won a medal, but I'm training very hard to win the coach's confidence and be important in China. I'm going to try that Scariolo has no doubts with me and can help the team go far.
(tagsToTranslate) interview (t) willy (t) hernangomez