ABL looking to expand next year, says official

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ABL chief executive officer Anthony Macri. Photo from https://www.facebook.com/aseanbasketballleague

JAKARTA–San Miguel Beer should brace for a tougher title defense with the Asean Basketball League (ABL) hoping to expand on its fifth season next year.

ABL chief executive officer Anthony Macri said the regional league has been in talks with “potentially new teams” from several countries, including the Philippines.

“It’s a matter of making sure we got the right partners, you can’t just add any team,” said Macri. “You got to add teams that share the same vision for fan engagement, that has the same vision for growth of basketball throughout the region.”

Powered by Asi Taulava and Chris Banchero, the Beermen captured their first championship following a three-game sweep of Indonesia in their title series here.

The Beermen, who highlighted their campaign with a record 16-game winning streak, brought the crown back to the country after the Philippine Patriots bagged the inaugural title in 2010.

Macri expects an even more competitive field as  no country has won back-to-back crowns in the league’s four seasons.

“From a competitive standpoint, I think that we raised the bar,” said Macri. “I think teams were overall competitive. We got some very high talent level in the league. The locals got better. We saw locals contributing from countries outside of the Philippines and it helps with our objective to develop local players.”

Teams from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Saigon, which mostly tapped Filipinos as Asean imports, rounded out this season’s field.

The Patriots were among the league pioneers, but pulled out this year as team owner Mikee Romero opted to focus on his PBA squad Globalport.

“Ultimately, we look at opportunities at potentially new teams,” said Macri.

Macri said the league is also working on engaging more fans following the increased activity on the league website and social media.

“We saw some increase in our interactivity,” said Macri. “We will try to work with our broadcast partners, make sure to bring basketball for everyone not just in the arenas, but also for everyone sitting at home. We are also working with our corporate partners to bring better fan experiences.”

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