Red Bull dumps Hightower
- Joaquin M. Henson () - April 30, 2004 - 12:00am
Cory Hightower played his farewell Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) game for Red Bull in Davao City last night.

Without Hightower’s knowledge, his replacement Victor Thomas quietly arrived in Manila from Philadelphia the day before the Barako’s game against Sta. Lucia Realty. Thomas would’ve suited up instead of Hightower if only he flew in earlier.

Thomas, 25, is seeing action for Red Bull against FedEx on Sunday.

Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao said he’s keeping veteran import Julius Nwosu on reserve in case Thomas doesn’t work out. But if Thomas plays as expected, Guiao said he’ll stick with the former La Salle star.

"If we bring back Julius, he’ll take away minutes from Vonn (Harp), Mick (Pennisi) and Rico (Villanueva)," explained Guiao. "Nasasayangan kami sa good performance ng aming mga big men with Julius expected to play over 40 minutes a game. Julius is our last resort. If we feel we just can’t match up against an Art Long, we might bring Julius back. But with Thomas, we’re more flexible. I would rather get an import who can play three because that’s where we can create mismatches."

Whatever happens, Guiao said Red Bull is keeping Nwosu’s rights until the end of the year. "I know at least three teams are interested in getting him but we want to keep our options open," added Guiao.

Nwosu is now back in the US where he lives after playing out his contract in Lebanon.

It won’t be a completely new experience for Thomas here. In the 2002 Governors Cup, he played 11 games for Sta. Lucia, teaming up with Leland McDougall in two outings and Mark Davis in nine. Thomas averaged 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 40 minutes. He shot .559 from the field and .688 from the line.

With Thomas in the lineup, the Realtors posted a 5-6 record and failed to survive Coca-Cola in a quarterfinal playoff. The Tigers enjoyed a twice-to-beat advantage over Sta. Lucia and took only a game to dispose of the Realtors. Thomas, whose agent is Los Angeles-based Filipino Mike Gonzalez, scored his PBA high of 34 points in a Sta. Lucia win over Alaska.

Guiao said Thomas’ advantage is his familiarity with the PBA style. "He was a little lean when he played here before but that was two years ago," continued Guiao. "Now, he’s heavier and stronger."

What surprised Guiao from Thomas’ collegiate records was his ability to bury the three. At Sta. Lucia, Thomas took only two treys and missed both. At La Salle, Thomas shot nearly 40 percent from three-point distance in four varsity seasons. He hit .398 in his first year, .421 in his second, .381 in his third and .329 in his fourth.

In another development, Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio confirmed he is replacing import Eddie Elisma. Making his PBA debut for the Hot Dogs against San Miguel Beer on Saturday is Tyrone Washington of Mississippi State.

"He’s got straight post-up moves and great upper body strength," said Gregorio. "He’s not as athletic as Art Long who’s one of a kind and he’s not that quick. Eddie’s not bad but he’s not a good fit for us now with all our injuries. We need a go-to guy with Jun (Limpot) out for three more games and Eddie (Laure), Ervin (Sotto), Rey (Evangelista), Paul (Artadi) and James (Yap) hurting."

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