SHANGHAI (AFP) – Two brothers played a major part in propelling Spain to the Basketball World Cup semi-finals in China – but it wasn’t NBA All-Stars Marc and Pau Gasol.
Charlotte Hornets centre Willy Hernangomez drilled 18 points and brother Juancho, the Denver Nuggets forward, scored 14 in a 90-78 quarter-final win over Poland on Tuesday.
They have a long way to go to emulate the Gasols, who have been at the heart of a successful Spain team for nearly 15 years, but they could be poised to inherit the mantle of Spain’s standout siblings.
“I would be so happy about that because Juancho and Willy are extremely talented players,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said.
“They have needed experience on the court because they are in and out when they play in the NBA.
“To be great like Marc and Pau have been, they need to have concentration and make the right decisions,” the 58-year-old Italian told FIBA.com.
The Gasols are in the twilight of their brilliant careers.
The 34-year-old Marc, a three-time NBA All-Star, has been a vital cog for Spain at the World Cup, much like he was in the Toronto Raptors’ historic run to the NBA crown.
But the 39-year-old Pau failed to recover from a foot operation in time to make the plane to China.
Barring more injury, the six-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion hopes to be in the Spain squad for one last Olympic hurrah in Tokyo next summer.
That raises the unusual prospect of two sets of siblings on Spain’s roster in Tokyo.
Scariolo, who has taken Spain to their first World Cup semi-final since 2006 – the year they won it with the Gasols – sounded a note of caution.
“They need to overcome obstacles when they have bad nights,” he said, referring to the Hernangomez duo. The World Cup is a great chance for them to prove themselves in bigger roles.”
Juancho, at 23 the younger brother by two years, has particularly answered that call, playing 137 minutes and averaging 10.8 points in China.
He was named player of the game in a tough second-round win over Italy with 16 points, picking up the slack for his idol Gasol, who was uncharacteristically quiet with only two points and one assist.
The Hernangomez brothers have basketball in their blood.
Their “little” sister Andrea, who stands 185cm tall, is in United States (US) college basketball and is a Spanish youth international. Their parents, notably mother Margarita Geuer, a former international, were also players.
Juancho, the youngest player on the Spain roster, has said he wants to soak up as much know-how from Gasol as he can while they are together in China.
“Time passes for everyone, including Pau and I,” said the elder statesman of the Spain team, who will play Australia or the Czech Republic in tomorrow’s World Cup semi-finals.
“Eventually we have got to pass the ethics we have as a team, the DNA we have, hopefully guys like Juancho and Willy see it and live it,” he told FIBA.com.