Willy Hernangómez is a newly-crowned FIBA World Cup champion after the Spanish National Team brought home gold a little less than two weeks ago from China. But adding this title to his repertoire isn’t the only change that’s taken place in the 25-year-old basketball star’s life.
For the third time in his NBA career, Hernangómez is switching jersey numbers, this time taking on No. 9 in honor of his mother, Margarita Geuer, a former player herself. Geuer made 158 appearances with the Spanish National Team from 1985-1993, most notably winning the country’s first-ever Women’s Eurobasket gold in 1993.
“I just wanted to wear No. 9 because my mom gave me her basketball talent, so I try to play like her,” said Hernangómez in an exclusive interview with Hornets.com. “Having a big connection with my mom and her number is going to be special. I’m going to have my mom always there in Charlotte with me, watching me and giving me that energy to help the team.”
Born to German parents in Sevilla, Geuer was a four-time Liga Femenina champion, a 1992 Olympian in Barcelona and still sits eighth on the federation’s all-time scoring leaderboard with 1,716 career points. Hernangómez, who sports No. 14 for Spain, revealed his numerical intentions to his mother prior to the start of the World Cup, which came shortly after divulging he’d also be wearing her last name with the National Team.
“The first time I told her, ‘Mom, I’m going to switch numbers now with Charlotte,’ she started crying again and again and again, even after I told her I was going to play with her last name at the World Cup,” he said. “She was hugging me, kissing me. In Spain, a lot of people have their father’s name in their name, but my mom is a big-time supporter and I wanted to show her love. She really took care of us for many, many years.”
Willy’s father, Guillermo Hernangómez Heredero, Geuer, his aunt and his uncle all made the long journey to witness La Roja run the table to its second-ever World Cup title. Hernangómez is the oldest of three children – his brother, Juancho plays for the Denver Nuggets and is also on the National Team and his sister, Andrea, is a rising sophomore at Fairfield University and represented Spain at the Women’s Under-18 Eurobasket last summer.
“It was really, really special,” said Hernangómez. “China from Spain is really far to travel. We are a really close family. We really love each other. We missed my sister because she’s already with her university. Seeing my parents supporting us and then watching us winning was an amazing experience for me, for them. It was something unbelievable.”
Geuer retired from playing one year before Hernangómez was born, so he never got the opportunity to personally see her play in a real competition. Though his father was quite the player himself having won a Liga ACB title with Real Madrid before injuries derailed his career, the Hornets big man is confident in where his particular basketball skills originated from.
“I got the opportunity to watch my mom on TV and films and she brought that same energy. She was a beast in the low post, had good shooting range, grabbing rebounds, hitting everybody, fighting for the ball. She was kind of like me playing in the low post. I feel like I’m the same player as my mom, so I’m very proud. My brother got everything from my father and then my sister is like a mix of my dad and mom. Hopefully, she will be the best.”
For reference, No. 9 was vacated on the Hornets with the offseason retirement of 18-year NBA veteran Tony Parker. Phoenix Suns point guard Ricky Rubio, the 2019 World Cup MVP, has had ownership of the digit on the National Team for quite some time.
Winning the gold medal was the perfect ending for Willy Hernangómez at his first FIBA World Cup competition with the Spanish National Team. Now, wearing No. 9 with the Charlotte Hornets marks the perfect beginning to the next chapter of his basketball career.
“This summer, I wore her last name for the National Team and then to get the gold medal at the World Cup was something very special. Right now, I’m trying to have the best feeling possible wearing her number.”