Willy Hernangómez: 'It will be the most special game of the season'

Willy Hernangómez: 'It will be the most special game of the season'

The Barça basketball star is facing an important game on Friday as the blaugranes take on a Panathinaikos team containing none other than his brother Juancho

The Euroleague continues for FC Barcelona and the squad are preparing for a game this week against Greek side Panathinaikos, one of the giants of the sport on the continent but who are not having the best of seasons so far. 

The game will be a special one for blaugrana Willy Hernangómez in particular. The Madrid born centre comes from a basketball family and on Friday against Panathinaikos he will come face to face with his brother Juancho. 

You have been at Barça for two months now, how are you settling in?

The truth is that it is going well. I knew that I was coming to a big city like Barcelona where I feel at home, and I am close to my family. It’s a dream to be able to enjoy all that and be happy. When I arrived, I imagined that I would like it, but I really do more than I thought before. I am happy to be back playing at home, in the Euroleague, the Endesa League and I want to enjoy this phase of my career.  

You have come to a team where there has been a change of coach and four new signings. How has it been building the solid group that you have now?  

We are still building, even though in the last few weeks we have grown as a team. The chemistry that we have had since the first day has been important to be able to work with the coaching staff and adapt to the style of play. We are on the right path, but we must be patient.  

The chemistry that we have had since the first day has been important to be able to work with the coaching staff and adapt to the style of play

Willy Hernangómez

Before the defeat against Real Madrid in the Euroleague and the one against Valencia in the league, you had won seven games in a row. How are you going into the next game?  

Looking forward to it and excited about getting the win. We are playing at home once again, in front of our fans, personally I love playing in the Palau. The Culers give everything and there is a great atmosphere when the seats are full, and the people get behind us. We have to show what we are capable of and win.  

The next game is against Panathinaikos and your brother, a special match for you.  

It is a really special one because we are facing each other for the first time in the Euroleague and after so many years in the NBA, above all for the family, it will be emotional. That said, the minute the ball is in play, we are opponents and for us it will be important to get the win in front of our own fans.  

The two of you play inside positions on court. What is it like defending your brother, and him defending you?  

He’s a really difficult player to defend against. He’s very versatile and he has a lot of qualities: he can shoot, he can penetrate, he is an excellent offensive rebounder, he reads the game really well and he is smart. I will give Abrines and Kalinic some tips so they can get ready. On the other hand, if he is defending me then that means we have men over, so I prefer him to do it rather than one of the Greek side’s centres.  

Before finishing your career, would you like to be on the same team as him, aside from the national team?  

That would be a dream. To be able to share a club dressing room with my brother is something we have still to do. If playing with him on the national team is incredible, then fighting for trophies at the same club would be marvellous. Let’s hope it can happen.  

You have become a key member of the team and your stats are really good, especially in the last few games where you have been the stand out player. Are we seeing Willy Hernangómez at his best?  

No, not yet. I am growing as a player and I still have to adapt to the way of playing in the league and Euroleague. It is true that I am getting better and feel more comfortable as the games go by, but the WIlly I want the Barça fans to see is a player who is getting more important to the team and can help in any game against any team. I will give my all and that version will come.

So, what areas of your game do you need to work on?  

Absolutely everything. What I like best is to dedicate myself to improving and be more and more versatile; to have more shooting range, defend better, better vision with the pass...One of the most important things is to get to know the players in the league and in Europe that are not on the radar yet. That mean studying, watching videos and scouting to look at their strong points and weak points. I am still young and I can improve many things.  

What does Roger Grimau ask of you?  

That I give everything and that I end each game empty. I have to give everything in attack and defence to help the team. In the end he has made me feel important in the team and that gives me a responsibility to do things well. He counts on me and I count 100% on him and we have a great relationship.  


Is he a coach who is very different to the ones that you have had up to now? Do you feel comfortable with the free style of play he uses?  

Coming from the NBA it is very different. I like the way he does things. He shows you a basis, a structure to the game, but later he gives players freedom to choose the best option in the game. He shows us that we have to be intelligent, find the advantage and help each other out. Personally, I like it because he makes you think and you always have to be on the ball.  

What is the objective for the team this season? And yours on a personal level?  

Barça is a club where you have to be in every final in all the competitions and my personal aim is to give my best in the finals that we get to.  

Which squad player has most surprised you at the start of the season?  

I have played with a lot of players over the years but I have always had a lot of respect for Jan Vesely and I was looking forward to seeing how he worked. He is a player who has been in the NBA, and then he came to Europe to become one of the most dominant centres on the continent. He has everything, he always tries to help and works in a marvellous way.  

Which player do you get on best with off the court?  

I would not pick out one. At the end of the day in the group there are a lot of teammates from the national side such as Abrines, Joel Parra, Oriol Paulí that I have played with for a long time, but honestly, I was excited about playing with Satoransky once again. 12 years ago we played together at Sevilla and three years ago we were at New Orleans. We have watched each other develop and I am excited to be back in the same dressing room.  

In the dressing room do you have any particular way to foster team spirit?  

We have a card game called ‘Pocha’. We started with the national team and now we have brought it into the dressing room. It’s a fun card game and everybody plays, players, coaches, physios, kit men. When we have some free time or on trips it’s a great way to come together and spend some time together.  

And to finish off, how are you getting on with Catalan?  

“Molt bé”. I am learning. I try to speak Catalan with the family and learn as many expressions and words as possible. When I can, I let go the odd phrase. I am going slowly but in a few months I hope I can answer questions or even do an interview.   


Força Barça
Força Barça

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