MC’s Hernandez thriving in English league
By Matt Mencarini | (email@example.com)
It wasn’t the language that gave Greg Hernandez problems in his first few weeks in England, it was the distinct Welsh accent.
“It took me about two or three weeks to get use to it,” Hernandez said. “And then I just basically was saying the same things that they were.”
Hernandez, a former Maryville College star, was named the England Basketball League’s Division 2 Player of the Year after spending a season with the Glamorgan Gladiators.
After taking a year off from basketball following his senior season, Hernandez attended two camps in an effort to make a roster for an exposure tour that would have had him playing daily games throughout Europe.
After playing well at the camps, even being named MVP of one, Glamorgan offered Hernandez a one-year contract.
“I got a really lucky situation,” Hernandez said. “The coach’s family had four boys, all 25, 23, 21 years old. So we were all in the same age range, so it was really easy for me to fit in.”
Hernandez and the Gladiators played in the EBL2. Like many European leagues, teams moved up and down between the EBL’s three divisions based on their record, with the top two teams moving up and the bottom two teams moving down.
“I might be going back to the same team to build it up and see how far we can take it,” he said. “We finished third. The top two teams get promoted. So we missed it by one game.”
But Hernandez also said he’s looking for a team already in the BBL, the league’s top division, that might be interested in offering him a contract.
“So far it’s been pretty silent,” he said. “But, I mean, if I have to go back and play for the same team, I’m looking forward to it, and not just because my team’s coach was the Welsh National Team coach.”
Hernandez said his coach has mentioned to him that if he played there for a few years they would consider buying him a British passport so he could play for the Welsh national team in European championship tournaments.
Hernandez was a Division III All-American in 2010 and says his physical style of play allowed for him to have instant success in England, where he averaged 35 points and 17 rebounds per game.
“I like to do things that people don’t like to do, which is bang, get dirty and just play big. And that’s all I’ve ever done,” Hernandez said. “I’ve always known that if I want to get shots up, I’m going to have to do it myself. So when (the ball) comes off the rim, (I) just go get it, throw a body on somebody and finish.”
Hernandez said he traveled all over England and experienced different parts of the culture, including several days spent in London and trying his hand at one of the country’s most popular sports: rugby.
Despite interest in basketball lagging when compared to other sports, Hernandez said he wants to return and his excited to be an ambassador for the sport.
“I enjoyed it,” he said of the overall experience. “I’m looking to do it as long as I can, as long as my body allows me. Hopefully, with the style of play that I play, at least four more years. As long as I don’t have to get a full-time job.”
Hernandez is currently back in the area playing in the Rocky Top Basketball League. In his first five games he averaged 18.8 points as the R. Larry Smith team advanced to Monday’s Rocky Top finals. Smith faces Choice Spine at 7:30 p.m. at Bearden High School.