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Spain's Juancho Hernangomez: ''I'm always going to say yes to the national team''
MADRID (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Juancho Hernangomez has put his hand up to play for Spain in their upcoming World Cup Qualifiers at Slovenia and at home to Belarus.
A member of the side coached by Sergio Scariolo that came in third at FIBA EuroBasket 2017, Hernangomez had his best outing of that campaign against Romania in the Group Phase when he dunked his way to 18 points and corralled 12 rebounds.Hernangomez just wrapped up his second season in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets and is now hopeful of being chosen to represent Spain as they look to remain unbeaten in the Qualifiers.
Their four wins have them at top of Group A ahead of Slovenia (2-2), Montenegro and Belarus (both 1-3).
"I will always say yes to the national team," he said in an interview with the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB). "Whenever I can go, I will go."
📹 "Tengo muchas ganas de ir a las ventanas con #SelMAS 🇪🇸".@juanchohg14 habla de su temporada, de su futuro y de sus dos familias: los Hernangómez y #LaFamilia ☺️#SomosEquipo pic.twitter.com/f8QHfNHeeI— SeBaloncesto - FEB (@baloncestofeb) June 7, 2018
Hernangomez would especially like to be on the floor when Spain host Belarus in Malaga on July 1.
"When you play at home, you feel like you can’t lose," he said. "Everyone is cheering for you. It’s an extra motivation that you get once you play in those games."
Hernangomez has paid close attention to Spain and their attempt to reach next year's 32-team World Cup in China.
"THE PLAYERS THAT HAVE COMPETED SO FAR FOR SPAIN HAVE DONE A BRILLIANT JOB. THERE IS NO A OR B TEAM. WE ARE ALL A GROUP OF PLAYERS. THERE ARE ENOUGH QUALITY PLAYERS TO GO AND BE AT THE LEVEL."
Though no members of the last summer's EuroBasket squad have played in the four games, Spain have been among the most impressive of all the teams on the Road to China 2019.
"The players that have competed so far for Spain have done a brilliant job," he said. "There is no A or B team. We are all a group of players. There are enough quality players to go and be at the level."
Being a part of the national team setup has been a major accomplishment for Hernangomez, someone who dreamed of representing the country when he was a boy.
"I remember the World Cup (2006) and the Olympics (2008)," he said, referring to events that were held in Japan and China, respectively. "I would wake up at 3 O'Clock in the morning to watch them play."
Spain captured the title in 2006 with Pau Gasol earning the honor as MVP. The following year in Beijing, the Spaniards played in a thrilling Final but lost to the USA, 118-107.
"For me, to be a part of it is not only an amazing achievement as it's the highest a player can point to but to have been able to do so in a team where you had the Gasols (Pau and Marc), Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky (Rubio)," he said.
"Those players make it special because I'm experiencing their last years, which I hope will be long, but they have taught us a lot. For me, each day last summer was a lesson."
Hernangomez, whose brother Willy is with the Charlotte Hornets and also plays for Spain, said of the national team: "It's like a family. We all support each other. There is a good atmosphere. We eat together. We have supper together. We go out together. We love training together.
"For us, it's really like a holiday. We play the game we love the most and we compete and have a great time."
Hernangomez says that players like the Gasol brothers and Navarro have set the bar high with all of their achievements in the national team jersey. In addition to the 2006 world title, Spain won three FIBA EuroBasket crowns in 2009, 2011 and 2015 and three Olympic medals - silver in 2008 and 2012 and bronze in 2016.
“FOR ME AND MY FAMILY, IT'S A MATTER OF PRIDE TO REPRESENT THE NATIONAL TEAM. I'LL BE READY IN CASE SERGIO CALLS ME UP. I'M ALWAYS GOING TO SAY YES TO THE NATIONAL TEAM."
"It's impossible to equal what they have achieved because they are an amazing generation," he said. "We (young players) have this healthy jealousy for what they have achieved.
"I don't think there will ever be another Pau or a Juan Carlos. People with that kind of talent, it's very difficult. What we will do is fight with humility, work every day and try to create a group that is family number two. For me, the national team comes first, to defend your country. For me and my family, it's a matter of pride to represent the national team. I'll be ready in case Sergio calls me up. I'm always going to say yes to the national team."