Marc Gasol 'inspirational' for Spain's rising star Willy Hernangomez
Willy Hernangomez has called fellow Spain international Marc Gasol "inspirational" and admitted he's trying to follow in the superstar's footsteps.
The two are set to be teammates when Spain go after a fourth FIBA EuroBasket crown since 2009 this summer.
"I like everything about him," Hernangomez said to FIBA.com. "He's a key player both for the national team and the Memphis Grizzlies. He is Spanish like me; he is a great person to learn from.
"We talk fairly often and he's helped me a lot. He teaches me a lot and I really love the way he plays. He is very patient and wise both on and off the court, and that is really inspirational for me."
The two already have a lot of common. Both were key players in their respective Spanish youth national sides.
Each made his senior national side debut at the age of 21, with Gasol a reserve in the title-winning FIBA Basketball World Cup 2006 team and Hernangomez on the FIBA EuroBasket 2015 championship roster.
As professionals, Gasol blossomed into a big-time player in Spain with Akasvayu Girona and scooped the honor as the ACB's Most Valuable Player.
Hernangomez made headlines as an up-and-coming center in Spain's top flight with Sevilla and also wore the Real Madrid shirt.
Gasol has distinguished himself as one of the most intelligent players in the NBA since he moved to the league in 2008.
"He has a very high basketball IQ," said Hernangomez, who just completed his rookie campaign with the New York Knicks. "He has such a great way of reading the game and passing the ball. He is a great example of a natural leader, an inspiration. I want to keep working hard and to try to follow in his footsteps."
Gasol claimed silver medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and Hernangomez, with Gasol injured and unable to play, won bronze last year in Rio de Janeiro.