THE Air 21 Express is set to parade a new reinforcement in Wesley Witherspoon when they take on the Meralco Bolts in the PBA Commissioner's Cup on Sunday.
Air21 coach Franz Pumaren confirmed the impending arrival of the 24-year-old Witherspoon, a former Memphis Tiger in college who had a stint with the New York Knicks in the NBA Summer League last year where he averaged eight points and two boards.
Witherspoon, who will replace Herve Lamizana, has a reputation as a versatile scorer and is now being counted upon to boost the fading campaign of the Express in the import-spiced tournament.
According to the team, he was recommended by former Philippine resident and longtime NBA scout Jim Kelly.
Pumaren confirmed to Spin.ph the decision to let go of Lamizana, an impressive defensive player and shot blocker who nonetheless is left wanting on offense.
"Yes, we have a new import coming in. Herve is a good player but I don't think he's the exact player we need right now," said Pumaren of his defensive-minded import.
"Sometimes the team needs somebody who can score, not just a force on the other end of the floor," added the many-time UAAP champion coach.
Lamizana's agent, Sheryl Reyes, bared in a separate interview that the development came as a blessing in disguise for the gangling 6-8 forward who is set for a tour of duty in Puerto Rico.
"It was a mutual decision of Herve and the team of him being released as he did not fit the system of coach Franz. The type of import he likes is a big-time scorer and as we know Lamizana is a silent assassin and a good defensive player," said the outspoken female agent.
"He is not sad (as his departure) opens an opportunity for him to go play in Puerto Rico. From here he will go home to see his family and proceed to Puerto Rico," added Reyes.
"Before coming to the Philippines, Herve was designated to go to Puerto Rico but because he heard so much good about the PBA and he is best friends with Donnell Harvey, he gave it a try and granted my request to come and play.
"We are very thankful to Air 21 most especially to Mr. Lito Alvarez for the opportunity."