Off the Court 2021-22: Pelicans center Willy Hernangomez

Basketball is most certainly a family endeavor for New Orleans center Willy Hernangomez, whose parents both hooped and whose brother is also an NBA player (Juan is a Boston Celtics forward). When it came time to select his uniform number, both his first and second choices were tied directly to Willy’s mother and father; he ended up with the digit his dad wore as a player, because his mom’s was already taken by a teammate. The 27-year-old discussed his family and other topics with Pelicans.com:

Best moment as an athlete: “Winning the World Cup championship with my national team in China in 2019. Being a world champ was very special. I never want to forget it.”

How he chose his current uniform number of 9: “My family is the most important thing for me. My parents, both of them were players. My dad wore No. 9, my mom wore No. 14. When I signed with the Pelicans, Brandon Ingram had No. 14, so I had to choose No. 9.” (Note: Hernangomez previously wore 14 when he played for New York, then wore 41 and 9 for Charlotte).

One thing fans might be surprised to know about him: “I may look like an energetic guy, and maybe a little crazy, but I’m really quiet and chill when I’m at home with my family. I just try to spend time with them, watch some movies. I don’t have that much energy at home.”

Favorite thing about New Orleans: “Everything. Food, the people, the night scene, the weather. The environment of basketball and people around the Pelicans is amazing.”

Pregame ritual: “I like to work out, just to feel good and try to get ready for the game.”

First job: “I used to cut the garden of my parents’ house and my neighbors’ house. It was just so I could have some (money) to go with my friends to the movies on the weekends. But I’m still doing that, cutting my parents’ (grass). I enjoy it. Back in the day, I might have gotten five dollars for it.” [laughs]

Favorite athlete as a kid: “It was always Pau Gasol.”

What he’d be doing if he weren’t an NBA player: “I’d be a teacher. It’s something I studied for, that I love. That’s why I do my camps in Spain in the summer, to be around kids and not only teach them basketball, but also many other things about life. I would teach every (subject) to little kids, maybe between 8 and 12 years old. Math, language, science.”

Closest friends currently playing on other NBA teams: “My brother with the Boston Celtics.”

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