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''We want to win more titles with the national team'' - Spain center Willy Hernangomez
MADRID (Spain) - All through the NBA season where he plays for the Charlotte Hornets, Willy Hernangomez followed the results of Spain in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers and counted down the days to joining the team.
His love for wearing the Spanish jersey is unquestioned and that he may get the chance to do that with his younger brother Juancho - also in the Spain training camp - is a great source of pride.
Willy spoke to FIBA.basketball about representing Spain, family, and expectations for the competition in China.
The World Cup is almost upon us. Have you been anxious to get started with team preparations?
We have all been waiting for so long to start the training camp and to get things started for this great summer. It feels good to be here with the guys, to sweat and work hard to get in the best shape and chemistry for China 2019.
How close is the team?
We really feel like a family; we love to be together and to fight together with the Spanish jersey on our shoulders. There is a great chemistry, a great camaraderie in this group of guys. I really love it. We all fight for one, we play for each other, and we are united. That is one of our biggest strengths, and we won't give up, ever.
One of your teammates actually is family...
It's so great to be able to play with my brother. We have been talking about this summer for some weeks now and finally we are here together with the Spanish jersey on our shoulders doing what we love the most: playing basketball and representing our country.
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We don't see each other often during the season so to be able to spend time and play with him feels very good. Juancho is also very motivated for this summer, and we both want to help the team have a successful run in China. We want to help the Roja win and we want to win medals and titles with the national team.
You have always been clear that representing Spain is very important to you. What does it mean for you?
I love to represent my country and love to play at FIBA level and to spend time with the guys and the staff. The camaraderie is so great, and when you play and share time with guys who have so much experience and talent, you become a better player.
I am very motivated for this summer and for the tournament to start. I have been working hard since the end of the NBA season with this goal in mind, to join the national team, for a while now. I want to help the team have a superb summer and a successful campaign in China.
Spain will face Tunisia in Guangzhou on August 31, then Puerto Rico and Iran during the First Round. What do you think about the opponents?
It's a very good group, and every team can go to the next round. In a competition like the FIBA World Cup, you have to respect every team and play at your best level because every game is different.
We are one of the best teams in the world, so every opponent that plays against us is going to want to beat us. We will need to be focused and play our best game to win and go to the next round with the best record.
Puerto Rico, Iran and Tunisia are very good teams and they are also coming to China with ambitions to go to the next round and to make their fellow compatriots proud. There are always surprises, teams who are supposedly less talented that win against top teams in a competition like the FIBA World Cup and we don't want to be one of them. We want to win all three games in the first round.
What are the larger aspirations for Spain in China?
We want to have another great campaign and continue with the same dynamics as the last international competitions we participated at in the last couple of years. We won gold at the FIBA EuroBasket 2015 in France, we won bronze in Rio (Olympics) the year after and we won another bronze medal in the last EuroBasket.
"I ALREADY WON A COUPLE OF MEDALS AND A TITLE, AND I WANT MORE AND MORE. I AM STILL YOUNG AND THE GOAL IS TO HELP THE NATIONAL TEAM KEEP SHINING AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL AND BE A GREAT EXAMPLE FOR THE YOUTH AND MY FELLOW COMPATRIOTS."
We are ambitious, and we want to go back home at the end of the tournament with something. We won’t give up; we will fight to have the longest run possible and stay in China until September 15!
It's going to be a great competition. A lot of teams can reach the medal spots and we are going to put everything on the court to win.
What do you want to be your legacy with La Roja?
I have been playing for the national team for some years now, and I already won a couple of medals and a title, and I want more and more. I am still young, and the goal is to help the national team continue shining at international level and be a great example for the youth and my fellow compatriots.