AFTER selling its PBA franchise four years ago, Sta. Lucia Realty has indicated its intention to return to basketball after applying for membership in the Countrywide Developmental Basketball League, a source told Spin.ph.
A person with inside knowledge of the situation said that Sta. Lucia has filed an application for membership in the regional league spearheaded by former national coach Joe Lipa, although its bid has yet to be approved.
Another source said Sta. Lucia is already dead set on playing in the countrywide league as it has already hired former Laguna Lakers, Air21, and San Beda mentor Bonnie Garcia as the head coach of the Realtors.
The team, a source added, has also conducted tryouts under Garcia, who has already given up his role as assistant coach of Mapua in the NCAA.
Membership in Lipa’s league will mark the return to basketball of the giant realty firm, which has made its mark both in the amateur leagues and in the PBA under the stewardship of top honcho Exie Robles and former PBA chairman Buddy Encarnado.
Sta. Lucia first got involved in basketball when it joined the Philippine Basketball League in the late 1980s. The Realtors finally made a jump to the professional ranks by purchasing Universal Robina Corporation’s PBA franchise in 1993.
As for Encarnado, his basketball roots date back to the days of ESQ Marketing - a team ironically coached by Lipa which pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the old PABL when it beat SMC-backed Lagerlite in a 1985 finals.
During its time, Sta. Lucia made news by signing Jun Limpot to the biggest contract in PBA history at that time in the 1990s. Still, the Realtors failed to win a title even after Limpot teamed up with Dennis Espino.
The Realtors finally won its first PBA championship in the 2001 Governors’ Cup under Norman Black and won a second one in the 2007-2008 Philippine Cup under Boyet Fernandez.
Sta. Lucia, however, sold its PBA franchise to Meralco in 2010, ending the company’s ties with Asia’s first play-for-pay league.
Now, Sta. Lucia is eyeing a basketball comeback via the Countrywide Developmental Basketball League, which according to Lipa has already gained commitments from 12 teams.
Games of the regional league, which is eyeing a July opening, will reportedly be aired by ABS-CBN Sports with a few PBA D-League squads also joining the regional league.