CEBUANA Lhuillier declined an invitation to join the 2014 season of the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
Danny Francisco, a member of the management team of Cebuana Lhuillier, confirmed that the pawnshop and remittance company had received an invitation from the regional league which is on the lookout for a new team from the Philippines with the impending exit of San Miguel.
“We were invited to play in the ABL but we are already in the D-League,” said Francisco, executive assistant to the company’s president and chief executive officer Jean Henri Lhuillier.
The ABL is trying to lure companies like Cebuana Lhuillier to bankroll a team in the regional league, knowing it cannot do without a team in Southeast Asia's biggest basketball market.
But Francisco said Cebuana Lhuillier, one of the pioneers when D-League opened shop in 2011, is committed to the developmental league while putting its support behind the tennis and softball national squads.
The company's focus, he said, is on supporting athletes during their development stage and the ABL apparently doesn't fit into those plans.
“We really want to be part of the development stage of the players,” said Francisco, a top amateur basketball player in the 1980s with Ateneo.
Although no formal announcement has been made, all signs lead to San Miguel missing the 2014 season after the exodus of the core of the team that includes reigning Most Valuable Player Asi Taulava, Erik Menk, and Leo Avenido to the PBA, and Finals MVP Chris Banchero to the PBA D-League.
The Beermen swept the Indonesia Warriors in the 2013 best-of-three finals.
Sources said the ABL is even willing to push back the opening of the 2014 season to March so that it can accommodate a Philippine team in the regional league.
The Philippine market is important to the ABL since basketball is the most popular sport in the country. It also draws spectators from overseas-based Filipinos.