THE Blackwater franchise remains steadfast of joining the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) despite failing to come on board this season at the last-minute.
Team owner Dioceldo Sy travelled to Malaysia on Friday to hold exploratory talks with one of the top officials of the ABL in Westports Malaysia Dragons owner Ruben Gnanalingam, who happens to be one of the co-founders of the decade-old league.
Sy was accompanied by former Westports Malaysia coach Ariel Vanguardia, now the alternate governor of Blackwater to the PBA Board.
Vanguardia, the former head coach of Phoenix, steered the Dragons to their first and only ABL championship in 2016.
Blackwater made a last minute bid to have an ABL franchise for the 2018-19 season through the IECO Green Warriors team, but could not be accommodated due to the late filing.
Sy, Vanguardia and Gnanalingam were joined in the meeting by former Dragons General Manager Yakub Hussain and Malaysia Basketball Association (MABA) president Datu Lua Choon Haan, a long-time business partner of the Blackwater owner.
“We're very interested of joining the ABL. We discussed a lot of things including possible future format. We’ll see,” said Sy.
The Blackwater owner does business with Datu Lua involving one of the biggest durian plantations in Malaysia and the SEA region.
Sy has also developed a close working relationship with Datu Lua as far as basketball is concerned, having sponsored the Malaysian youth team that suited up in the PBA D-League last season carrying the banner of Blu Star.
MABA meanwhile, has helped develop the Philippine women’s team under coach Patrick Aquino since five years ago, Malaysia being considered one of the sports’ powers in women’s basketball in the region.
But seeing IECO become a regular ABL franchise hopefully by next season, is Blackwater’s ultimate goal.
“That’s the plan. That’s what we are working on,” said Vanguardia.
“The ABL is doing the right things now to become a league to reckon with in Southeast Asia, and hopefully in Asia,” said Sy,