Air21 wants to prove doubters that they can contend in the PBA

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Air21 Express was never a contender in the PBA, but next season Coach Franz Pumaren want to prove doubters that they certainly can contend.
Coach Pumaren faces a tough task of trying to make his new-look squad click in a short period of time which might cause his ouster of his job if he can’t prove it.
The San Miguel Beer has the same situation but Air21 has a tougher task ahead considering how talented the line-up of the Beermen compared to them.
Air21 is languishing in the cellar of the standings for two straight conferences.
The Commissioner’s Cup tips off in two weeks, and the Express will parade several new trade acquisitions and an import that has had little practice time with the squad.
The Express surprisingly dealt its top scorer and consistent performer Nino “KG” Canaleta to Talk ’N Text in exchange for Sean Anthony, rookie guard Eliud Poligrates and a first-round pick for 2016 in a surprise move last January. 
The 6-foot-6 Canaleta led the Express with averages of 15.9 points and 6.2 rebounds in the Philippine Cup.
The team added another piece in the puzzle by participating in a complex four-team, seven-player trade early this week.
The Express ships Bonbon Custodio to Globalport, while landing veteran point guard Jonas Villanueva.
The Express will have a pure point guard in Villanueva and a good back-up in promising rookie Poligrates.
Pumaren feels the additional manpower gives Air21 bench depth, though a strong showing for the import-laced conference would still be a challenge given the short tournament format of just nine games in the elimination round.
“Mahirap ngayon dahil nasa adjustment period uli kami,” Pumaren told over the weekend. “Siyempre, it’s not just jelling with the three new additions sa team, pero jelling pa with our import, who’ll only have his first practice (on Friday).”
Air21 tapped an unknown import in Herve Lamizana from Ivory Coast as its import for the Commissioner’s Cup.
The 215-pound Lamizana planed in late last Wednesday after coming off a stint with the Sichuan Blue Whales in the Chinese Basketball Association recently.
 Lamizana was averaging 13.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 assists for the Blue Whales.
Pumaren said Lamizana could play the power forward position, where he could easily form a strong “twin tower” defensive wall alongside Asi Taulava.
“Herve is a very good help-side defender. He’s really a strong defensive player and I think he’s already used to a lot of banging,” explained Pumaren, whose immediate goal for the second conference is to bring the Express past the quarterfinals.
The Abidjan-born Lamizana, played for the Ivorian national team in the 2010 Fiba World Cup in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as the 2011 and 2013 Fiba Africa men’s championships, where they placed fourth in both editions.
Noted for his defense, Lamizana averaged 10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks for Ivory Coast during last year’s Fiba Africa championships.
Expect the Express to use Villanueva as their starting point guard and start either Joseph Yeo and Mac Cardona, former La Salle teammates, at the off guard spot. The two might be fielded together with Cardona sliding to small forward.
At the frontcourt, the Express will parade Taulava and Lamizana in a possible duel with PBA’s twin towers such as San Miguel’s Arwind Santos and Junemar Fajardo and Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter.
It’s still uncertain if Pumaren will prove his doubters but will just wait for the next conference’s Commissioner Cup to know the answers.
— with reports from
Air21 Express (2011-present) roster

Players Coaches
Pos. # POB Name Height Weight DOB (YYYY–MM–DD) From
F/C 4 Philippines Manuel, Vic 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 200 lb (91 kg) 1987-06-18 PSBA
PG 6 Philippines Poligrates, Eloy 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) 180 lb (82 kg) 1986-29-04 SWU
PG 7 Philippines Villanueva, Jonas 5 ft 11 in (1.8 m) 170 lb (77 kg) 1983-03-31 FEU
SG 8 Philippines Cardona, Mark 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) 180 lb (82 kg) 1981-11-03 De La Salle
G 10 Philippines Atkins, Simon 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) 180 lb (82 kg) 1988-07-19 De La Salle
F 11 Canada Anthony, Sean 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 228 lb (103 kg) 1986-26-06 McGill
F 12 Philippines Camson, Eric (R) 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 228 lb (103 kg) 1990-06-12 Adamson
SG 14 Philippines Ritualo, Ren-Ren (C) 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 180 lb (82 kg) 1979-06-14 De La Salle
G/F 15 Philippines Menor, Ogie 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 190 lb (86 kg) 1986-12-04 San Beda
F 16 Philippines Borboran, Mark (IN) 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 170 lb (77 kg) 1981-11-01 UE
SG 18 Philippines Yeo, Joseph 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) 175 lb (79 kg) 1983-09-07 De La Salle
PG 19 Philippines Arboleda, Wynne 5 ft 11 in (1.8 m) 170 lb (77 kg) 1976-11-26 MLQU
G/F 21 Philippines Jaime, Chito 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 200 lb (91 kg) 1983-10-21 AMA
G/F 23 Philippines Espiritu, Elmer 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 185 lb (84 kg) 1985-11-23 UE
SF 33 Philippines Matias, Ronnie 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 184 lb (83 kg) 1983-11-29 UM
F/C 34 Philippines Sharma, Carlo 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1980-09-20 De La Salle
PF 63 Switzerland Burtscher, Michael 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 210 lb (95 kg) 1985-03-08 CCC
C 88 Tonga Taulava, Asi 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 1973-03-02 BYU–Hawaii
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

  • (C) Team captain
  • (I) Import
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (IN) Inactive
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Ed Umbao

Founder of | co-Founder of

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