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Rubio, Willy Hernangomez geared up to play for Spain at China 2019
MADRID (Spain) - Ricky Rubio and Guillermo "Willy" Hernangomez are gearing up to represent Spain at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.
Both NBA players are enthusiastic about the upcoming campaign in China, where Spain appear to have received a favorable draw in Group C with Tunisia, Iran and Puerto Rico.
Getting to the Quarter-Finals will not be straightforward, however, as Spain - if they claim a top-two finish in that pool - would have to finish in the top two of Second Round Group J, which will also have the top two sides from a Group D consisting of Serbia, Italy, Philippines and Angola.
"I'm happy to go with Spain," Rubio, who played at the 2010 and 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cups, said to Radio Marca. "But I would need the okay of my (NBA) team."
"I HAVE A BIG DESIRE AND I'M VERY EXCITED WAITING FOR THE CALL OF SERGIO [SCARIOLO]. AS A NATIONAL TEAM AND A POWER IN BASKETBALL, OUR ASPIRATIONS HAVE TO BE THE HIGHEST. THE GOLD MEDAL IS OUR GOAL. WE HAVE TO ASPIRE TO GET A MEDAL AND, ABOVE ALL, TO THINK ABOUT ACHIEVING THE BEST POSITION AT EUROPEAN LEVEL IN VIEW OF 2020 OLYMPIC GAMES."
Rubio spent his first six NBA seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the last two with the Utah Jazz. He enters free agency this summer.
"It's also a condition that I'll have to speak when the team decides because, if it's true that the final decision (to play for the national team) is ours as players, you don't want to start badly with your new team," he said.
"I finished this past season very well physically and am available for selection (by Spain). Once I sign the contract (with his new NBA team), there will surely be no problem but there will always be the possibility that the team will tell you you have just signed this and you stay here this summer. In principle this should not happen but I can not give 100 percent to the selection until I sign the contract."
Hernangomez, who is on the books of the Charlotte Hornets, is champing at the bit to play in China. He made his senior team debut in 2015 when he helped Spain capture the FIBA EuroBasket crown. He was also in the team that won bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympics and finished third at EuroBasket two years ago.
Hernangomez has helped Spain reach the podium at competitions in three of the past four summers
"I have a big desire and I'm very excited waiting for the call of Sergio [Scariolo]," the 2.11m (6ft 11in) big man said of his national team coach. "During the year I was very angry not being able to go to the windows (European Qualifiers for the World Cup). I really want to go, win a position and show that we are serious and that we are going to get a medal...
"As a national team and a power in basketball, our aspirations have to be the highest. The gold medal is our goal. We have to aspire to get a medal and, above all, to think about achieving the best position at European level in view of the 2020 Olympic Games."
Starting with Tokyo 2020, qualification for the Olympics is achieved through the World Cup, with 7 teams booking their places directly, while the 16 next best classified teams at China 2019 will get the chance of qualifying through one of the 4 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs) 2020. Two selected teams per region will also take part in the OQTs for a total of 24 teams divided in 4 tournaments of 6 teams each. The winner of each tournament will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
After being crowned world champions in 2006, Spain have failed to reach the podium at the past two World Cups. However, they boast a lot more depth in the national team program after giving so many players the chance to represent the country during the Qualifiers.
"I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all the players who have achieved this brilliant qualification for the World Cup," said Hernangomez who is happy that many new players got the opportunity to play in the Qualifiers.
"You also have to see it from the perspective of those players who, surely, would not have had another chance to play with the national team and now they know what it is to defend Spain's shirt."