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Air21 wants Barako forward

MANILA, Philippines - Air21 is now pursuing Barako Energy Coffee star forward Leo Najorda in a bid to strengthen its roster in time for the PBA Fiesta Conference wildcard play beginning Sunday.

The Express are hopeful they can work a trade with the Coffee Masters considering the latter’s 2009-2010 campaign is already over.

Coach Yeng Guiao and his Air21 team will be up against either Barangay Ginebra or Rain or Shine in the initial knockout stage of the wildcards.

The other wildcard pairing pits Coca-Cola versus Sta. Lucia Realty. The winners advance to another knockout match for the last seat in the quarterfinal round.

Though barely making the last cut, the Express remain confident of their chances in the wildcards, drawing inspiration from prolific import LeRoy Hickerson.

Najorda has been left as the lone major force at Barako after the departure of key players as Rico Villanueva, Cyrus Baguio, Junthy Valenzuela, Mick Pennisi, Lordy Tugade and Larry Fonacier.

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The former NCAA MVP awardee, a native of Laoag, averaged 11.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists in their Fiesta Conference campaign.

He’s coach Guiao’s personal choice in the 2005 PBA draft. He had a career average of 6.7 points with a career high of 22 points through the 2008-09 campaign.

Barako is reportedly amenable on the trade. Still being worked out is what Barako would get in return.

Meanwhile, other Barako players are awaiting words from the management on the status of the team. Most will no longer under contract at the end of the month.

Raffy Casyao, Barako’s alternate representative to the board, said team owner George Chua has yet to discuss things with the players , but he understands the team is sticking it out in the league.

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