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Being the next Gasols is impossible, say the Hernangomez brothers
CLUJ-NAPOCA (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - A simple glance at the Spanish team stats following the first three games of Group C paints a familiar picture. Brothers are team leaders in points and rebounds. However, there is another layer to this picture now. There are now two sets of brothers.
FIBA EuroBasket 2017 will go down in history as the first tournament to feature both Hernangomez brothers. Willy is 23, a gold medal winner two years ago. Juancho is 21, a debutante, and the two of them are the youngest members of Sergio Scariolo's crew.
"They have a lot of talent, they are very skillful, athletic, they enjoy playing basketball, you can see that. They are learning from their teammates, trying to catch those little things that will make them top level [players] in every point of view. Right now they have energy, athleticism, talent, enthusiasm...they do lack some experience defensive-wise, but their desire to learn is great," Scariolo said about his leading scorers and rebounders.
Willy grabs 11.0 rebounds per game, trailing only Gabe Olaseni in that column in the entire championship. Juancho scored a team-high 38 points over the first three games, including numerous highlight plays that drew applause even from the opposing fans.
They have to be the world's luckiest basketball family right now. Not only are they enjoying each other's company in a locker-room, they are also sharing the floor with icons such as Juan Carlos Navarro, Pau and Marc Gasol.
"I used every year with the national team to learn from Pau, from Marc, from all of my teammates. I got the experience by playing the FIBA EuroBasket two years ago and I think I am ready to compete now. I think I'm a better player, a better person now, I believe I can help my team to get the wins," expressed Willy, who is feeding off their influence.
Juancho is even more modest, proud just to be a part of the lineup. "For every young guy to play with these guys...it's like a dream. For me personally, I am really happy to be here, really happy that I made the team, and have this chance to learn every day from these guys. They helped me a lot, they teach me all the time, giving me some good advice," said Juancho, explaining what it looks like as the youngest member of Spain.
The Denver Nuggets forward is the same age Marc Gasol was when he made his national team debut, back in 2006. The older brother was already there for Marc, just as there is for Juancho now. The rest of the world must be thinking, "even when the Gasols retire one day, the two new Spanish brothers will probably just continue torturing the rest of us," but the Hernangomez brothers don't feel any sort of pressure to carry on the brotherly legacy of the team.
"It's not pressure, it's an honor to have people comparing us with Gasol brothers," the New York Knicks center explained.
"I think they are legends. We have to follow them, and my brother and I, we just have to start right away in the national team and the NBA. We'll have to do a lot of stuff if we want to be like Gasols. It's gonna be super-difficult! But we are excited to learn from them, and to get to play another championship with the Gasol brothers is amazing."
"Being the next Gasols is impossible," Juancho added. "Just like being the next Juan Carlos Navarro is impossible. And [the Gasols] are the two best players at FIBA EuroBasket. Pau is 37-year-old and still one of the best players in Europe. He's like a big teacher or a big brother to all of us. It's impossible to be like Gasol."
There is one key difference with the two pairs of brothers. The Gasols are Barcelona's finest. But Guillermo Gustavo Willy and Juan Alberto Juancho are Madridistas. The rivalry is intense, albeit only when the Real Madrid and FC Barcelona soccer teams meet each other.
"For sure! My brother and I are Madrid fans, Real Madrid fans, and Gasol brothers - they are FC Barcelona fans. The soccer teams played a match two or three weeks ago in Madrid, the Spanish Supercup, and Madrid beat Barcelona easily. So after the game, my brother and I were crazy, like, yelling 'Hala, Madrid!' and 'Let's go, Madrid!' The Gasol brothers were mad at us. But it is what it is," said Willy smiling, as he thought back to the 5-1 on aggregate Real win.
"It is different with soccer and basketball. In soccer we are Madrid fans. But in basketball, my team are the Denver Nuggets," the younger Hernangomez stated, staying true to his current team.
He was with the Nuggets when he exploded for 27 points and 10 rebounds against the Golden State Warriors and made the world take notice of his growth. When you ask Willy to talk about "little" brother, you can see an enormous pride in his eyes, and a smile that extends from ear-to-ear.
"To tell you the truth, I don't think I've seen too many players working as hard as Juancho," Willy said.
"I think he knows what he wants. Now he can show everybody he's ready to play in the NBA, to play in FIBA EuroBasket, to do great things and big things already this summer. He's very young, but we need him. And for me this is something very important, too. He's my brother, he's my roommate, we talk a lot every day about little things, about details. We trust each other, it's a dream come true playing with him at FIBA EuroBasket right now. He's still a kid, but when he comes to the basketball court, his mentality changes. He becomes a wild animal. I am really proud of him."
Querido Juancho: Hoy es un día muy especial, para ti, para mí y para nuestra familia. No sólo vas a debutar en un partido oficial de la Selección sino que vamos a estar juntos. ¿Recuerdas cuando éramos pequeñajos y jugábamos en la canasta del jardín de casa? Podíamos estar allí horas y horas. Casi nunca acabábamos los partidos y uno de los dos se enfadaba porque nos hacíamos trampas, no nos pitábamos las faltas… siempre tenías que ganar tú. Siempre has sido muy imaginativo, con mucha energía, vocación de deportista. Tan imaginativo que siempre te veía con un palo en la mano, luchando contra monstruos que a veces te mataban en el campo de batalla, al menos te tirabas al suelo y ahí te quedabas. Algo realmente curioso porque cuando eres pequeño e imaginas una guerra, una batalla, siempre quieres ganar. Tú eras diferente. En casa los días de partido son especiales, ¿verdad? A mí es unos de los días que más me gustan, ya sea para verlo en familia por la tele o que vinieran todos al pabellón a vernos jugar y luego irnos a comer o cenar y comentar todos los detalles. Son momentos en los que la familia es feliz, en los que estamos unidos por el baloncesto. Recuerdo la primera vez que jugamos uno contra otro, un Estu-Real Madrid. Fue algo simplemente espectacular. ¿Y cuándo nos enfrentamos por primera vez en la NBA? Fue un sueño hecho realidad, algo único que no creo que podamos describir. Sólo al recordarlo se me pone la piel de gallina, o ver el video en el que después del partido nos abrazamos… Ya tuvimos la suerte de coincidir en la sub 20, ¿recuerdas? Fue una gran experiencia. Ganamos la medalla de plata, pero lo mejor es que jugar contigo es muy divertido, nos compenetramos muy bien. Y ahora vamos a vivir esto juntos. ¡Un Eurobasket! Cuando salimos los dos en la lista de seleccionados fue una noticia maravillosa para la familia y a mí me hace una especial ilusión tenerte a mi lado. Te lo mereces. Juancho, simplemente te quiero dar un consejo de hermano: sé feliz, disfruta, diviértete, aprovecha cada momento y vive al máximo la experiencia de estar aquí. No lo vas a olvidar nunca, al igual que yo tampoco podré olvidar lo que se siente al jugar por fin juntos!
Juancho's look is almost the same when asked about Willy.
"He is really good player. He plays hard, he's improving every single game, Pau and Marc taught him a lot, every single practice they play hard [against him], try to fight him, try to win, and that is a chance for Willy to keep improving and keep getting better every day."
The Hernangomez brothers backing each other up. Get used to the sight. You're going to see a lot more of it over the next decade or so.