THE Asean Basketball League (ABL) continues its search for a new owner of a Philippine franchise as boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao appeared to have lost interest after initially sending feelers to the regional league.
With just four months away from its targeted opening date, sources said the ABL is finding it hard closing a deal with a possible Philippine representative after San Miguel disbanded its team after winning the championship in the regional league.
And that includes no less than the Filipino boxing champion himself, according to a person with knowledge of the situation but refused to be named.
The source said Pacquiao, a known basketball lover who owned a team in General Santos City that once played in a regional pro league, inquired about the ABL and the option to become the country’s representative.
But the source added the league hasn’t heard from the Filipino boxing icon again ever since his income tax issue with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) came out in the open.
Cebu-based coach Yayoy Alcoseba and the Tanduay group have also expressed intention to join the ABL, but have also not gotten in touch with the league since, added the same source.
Initially, there were reports the ABL asked the Manny V. Pangilinan group and Cebuana Lhuillier to join the league but both camps told Spin.ph that they have decided against joining in.
“We have talked to everyone who could possibly form a Philippine team but they have declined,” said the ABL official.
The same official expressed disappointment about the looming possibility of the Philippines, which happens to be the region's biggest basketball market, not having a franchise in a league it has dominated since its inception in 2010.
“It’s sad, there is a possibility the Philippines won’t have an ABL team. This is Southeast Asia where the Philippines has been dominating. It should show how strong they are,” said the official.
Pressed for comment about the matter, Singapore Slingers assistant coach and media manager Jericho Ilagan said the absence of a Philippine-based ABL team will only increase the surplus of basketball talent in the country.
“One Filipino team is at least 12 Filipino players plus coaches pa and international experience,” said Ilagan, one of several Filipino coaches plying their trade in the league along with Westport Malaysia coach Ariel Vanguardia.
Ilagan noted how former league MVP Leo Avenido, Rudy Lingganay, and Jai Reyes found their way back to the PBA after reviving their careers in the ABL.
“Sayang ‘yung next na Lingganay, Avenido, Jai Reyes na dapat nakakalaro doon para makapunta or makabalik sa PBA,” said Ilagan.
The ABL is targeting a July opening with the Indonesia Warriors, Westports Malaysia Dragons, Singapore Slingers, and Thailand Slammers confirmed to return for the new season.
Recently, the ABL announced it is searching for a new commissioner and chief executive officer following the departure of Anthony Macri.