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Henry Liao

  1. PBA History: El Presidente's near Triple-Double Season

    Collecting 50 points in one game may be one of the measurements of offensive wizardry, yet some of the legendary players in Philippine Basketball Association history never reached the plateau during their illustrious careers.

    Strange but true, all-time PBA greats Robert Vincent Salazar (Sonny) Jaworski, Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio, all of whom were once recipients of the Most Valuable Player hardware during their heyday, never tallied a 50 at any time.

    Jaworski, a 6-foot-1 guard whose play epitomized the never-say-die spirit that defined the teams he later handled in pro coaching, chalked up his personal high of 34 with the famed Toyota franchise in 1980 at age 34.

    Needles to say, however, the Big J was more known for his rugged and gung-ho defensive skills than his offensive prowess.

    Jaworski, also monikered ?The Living Legend,? helped the Toyota Tamaraws win nine PBA conference championships in nine seasons with the Ricardo Silverio-owned franchise (from the league?s inception in 1975 until the team?s disbandment after the 1983 season). The Baguio City-born son of a Polish-American father Theodore Vincent Jaworski and an Ilocano mother Iluminada Bautista Salazar was voted the PBA MVP during the 1978 season when he posted averages of a career-high 20.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.8 steals in 55 games and Toyota snared two of the three conference championships at stake.

    Jaworski, the first playing coach in PBA history in 1985 with four more championships with the Ginebra San Miguel franchise, last saw action in Asia?s first-ever pro league in March 1997 in a game held in Dumaguete City, making him the oldest player ever to suit up in a PBA game at age 51.

    Jaworski won a Philippine Senate seat during the 1998 elections and served for six years (June 30, 1998-June 30, 2004). He turned 70 last March.

    Fernandez, a gangling 6-foot-5 center, was a teammate of Jaworski during the Toyota era. Fondly called ?El Presidente? for his elegant, silky-smooth offensive skills, Fernandez owned a career high of 48 points with the Tamaraws in 1980.

    The year that Jaworski earned his MVP award, Fernandez actually wound up as Toyota?s season scoring leader with 20.6 points along with 9.7 rebounds in 54 appearances. Like the Big J, he won nine title rings with and a league MVP trophy in 1982 with Toyota. Following Toyota?s disbandment, the Maasin, Southern Leyte native and product of the University of San Carlos hooked up with Beer Hausen in 1984 during which he captured a second MVP hardware with a career-high 27.8 scores, 11.2 boards, 9.9 assists, 1.55 steals and 2.09 shot blocks in 64 outings.

    It was probably the most dominant one-season individual performance in PBA annals with Fernandez, who netted 46 points at one time during the campaign, came just five assists short of a triple-double average. However, he was unable to steer Beer Hausen to any conference championships, winding up with only fourth-, second- and third-place finishes (arranged in order of conferences).

    Fernandez also would romp away with the PBA MVP honor with Tanduay in 1986 and Purefoods/San Miguel Beer in 1988 (getting 47 points with Purefoods in one game, one short of his career high), becoming the only player ever to win four MVP trophies with four different franchises.
    Fernandez, who hung up his jersey in 1994 after a record 19 PBA conference crowns, tried national politics during the 1995 mid-term elections but was soundly beaten in the senatorial polls.

    He subsequently relocated to Cebu City and ventured into various businesses.

    In July 1 this year, Fernandez, who turned 63 last October 3, was named one of the four commissioners of the Philippine Sports Commission under the new administration.

    Like Fernandez, Patrimonio also collected an all-time high of four PBA MVP awards during his entire 17-year tenure (1988-2005) with the Purefoods franchise, accomplishing the feat in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997.

    Known as ?The Captain,? the 6-3 forward chalked up a career-high 47 points with the Purefoods Hotdogs in 1991.

    Since his retirement, Patrimonio, who turns 50 on November 17, has acted as the team manager of the Purefoods franchise under different banners ? B-Meg Derby Ace, San Mig Coffee and now, Star Hotshots.

    It?s truly amazing that Fernandez (first), Patrimonio (third) and Jaworski (ninth) continue to rank among the top 10 on the PBA?s all-time scoring ladder until now even if neither of the three all-time greats registered a 50-point game during their remarkable careers.
  2. Farewell, King Caloy

    More than his impeccable and immense contributions to Philippine basketball history, I would rather like to remember the late Carlos “Pomfret” Loyzaga for his humility, discipline and dedication to his craft.

    These are the characteristics that Filipino athletes of the young generation should emulate.

    Talent without dedication and discipline, after all, is an unlamented waste.

    Caloy, who crossed the Great Beyond last January 27 at the age of 85, was so humble of his accomplishments no matter how monumental it had been during Philippine basketball’s Golden Era in the fifties and sixties. And the discipline it took to maintain his health in outstanding shape was truly remarkable and admirable.

    To chroniclethe 6-3, 200-pound Loyzaga’s cage exploits is to immortalize the most glorious moments in PH basketball history.

    He was a rarity in that he could play all three positions – center, guard and forward – with equal efficiency.
    The bull-strong, multi-faceted Loyzaga was at his finest in overseas competitions.

    No other prominent Filipino cager since the 1970s – active or retired – has had more experience at the international level than Loyzaga, who was known by various monikers – “The Big Difference,” “The Great Difference” and “King Caloy” among other descriptions – during his heyday for his scintillating all-around hardword performance.

    Caloy wore the Philippine national colors on 10 occasions, including four stints outside the Asian region, the most memorable of which came during the 2nd FIBA World Basketball Championship (known as the FIBA Basketball World Cup since 2014) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1954.

    In that quadrennial meet, the Philippines grabbed the bronze medal for the highest finish ever by an Asian country in FIBA World Cup annals (even until now).

    Loyzaga and his teammates finished with a 6-3 record and Loyzaga ranked third in scoring in the tournament with a 16.4-point average in nine appearances, including a high of 33 points in the Filipinos’ 67-63 win over Uruguay in their final game, to earn a berth on the five-man All-Tournament Team. (To date, no other Asian player has turned in the trick.)

    In three other stints on the world stage, Loyzaga starred for the Philippine Olympic team during the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki, Finland (3-2, ninth place) and the 1956 Summer Games in Melbourne, Australia (4-4, seventh place) and in the World Basketball Championship in Santiago, Chile in 1959 where the country placed eighth with a 4-2 ledger.

    He also was a hands-down selection for the 1960 Olympiad in Rome, Italy. But he failed to join the nationals due to a broken right wrist he suffered while playing softball at the old Cortabitarte Field, which is now the site of the Ospital ng Maynila.

    Astonishingly, the mestizo-looking Loyzaga brought home the championship hardware in all of his six stints in the Asian scene.

    He snared a gold medal in each of his four Asian Games appearances – 1951 New Delhi, India (4-0); 1954 Manila, Philippines (6-0); 1958 Tokyo, Japan (6-1); and 1962 Jakarta, Indonesia (7-0) – and two more in the Asian Basketball Confederation tournaments (now known as the FIBA Asia Championship) – 1960 Manila, Philippines (9-0) and 1963 Taipei, Taiwan (9-2).

    The 1962 Asian Games marked the most recent time that the Philippines had brought home the men’s basketball crown.

    Loyzaga put together a mind-boggling 58-14 record overall during his illustrious playing tenure with the PH national squad.

    Moreover, Loyzaga, a product of San Beda College, amassed a total of 25 gold medals in his 15-year career that ended abruptly in 1964 at age 34 due to a chronic knee ailment.

    Farewell, King Caloy. You truly are a monumental loss to Philippine basketball history.
  3. Basketball in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s

    Basketball caught my fancy at an early age because of the Philippines’ dominance in the Asian scene that earned the Filipino cagers tickets to the Summer Olympics and World Basketball Championship (now known as the FIBA World Cup) during the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

    Traditionally, the national team candidates at the time would come from the post-graduate or commercial ranks.

    My eldest brother often would bring me to the games in the Philippine National Seniors basketball tournament (also known as the National Open), an-anything-goes tournament where players from the colleges and universities, government institutions, commercial clubs and even movie and recording companies competed for the national championship, and the popular Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) league (the harbinger of the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) circuit league that unwrapped in April 1975) with its All-Filipino and import-spiced dishes.

    The Yco Redshirts/Painters, which was owned by sportsman Don Manolo Elizalde, and the Ysmael Steel Admirals, which was owned by prominent industrialist Felipe (Baby) Ysmael, lorded it over in the National Seniors during the fifties and sixties.

    For the record, I bled red and always rooted for Yco come hell or high water.

    Spearheaded by burly slotman Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga, the Redshirts/Painters put together a record seven straight national championships from 1954 to 1960. Then it was the turn of Ysmael Steel, bannered by Adriano Papa Jr., Jaime Mariano, Narciso Bernardo, Engracio Arazas, Alfonso Marquez and Manuel Jocson, to annex six consecutive titles from 1961 to 1966.

    In 1967, Ysmael Steel looked to duplicate Yco’s feat but losses to the Yutivo Opels and the Painters in the four-team, single-round championship phase eliminated the Admirals from finals contention.

    As a self-imposed punishment for their twin debacles, the Admirals and their head coach Valentin (Tito) Eduque showed up for their third-place game against Puyat Steel at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum with their heads cleanly shaved.

    The then-unprecedented “bald” act, of course, was duplicated during the mid-1990s when the entire Sunkist squad, from the players down to head coach Yeng Guiao to team manager Elmer Yanga, also showed up for a Philippine Basketball Association contest with bald heads following a disastrous defeat.

    The Yco Painters regained the National Seniors crown in 1967 by shellacking the Yutivo Opels in the championship game. Mentored by Loyzaga, the Painters were led by then-fresh college grads Robert (Sonny) Jaworski and Danilo Florencio and veterans Renato (Sonny) Reyes, Freddie Webb, Elias Tolentino Jr., Edgardo Roque, Edgardo Ocampo and Edgardo Gomez.

    The MICAA was the country’s top post-graduate commercial league from the late 1930s to the mid-1970s when the top ballclubs bolted to form the PBA in 1975. (The MICAA actually continued to exist, although as a farm league, until its demise in 1981.)

    At the time, the word “professional” officially did not exist in the local basketball vocabulary even if the players then were already receiving monetary compensation (termed as allowances) for their playing skills in the guise of work-related services to their mother companies.

    For example, a Meralco player drew his salary as a branch executive or an assistant manager of the utility company when, in actuality, the numbers on his paychecks were directly as a result of his playing basketball.

    Alfonso (Pons) Marquez comes to mind only because I remember seeing him way back in the 1970s working in one Meralco branch where I had been paying my electric bills. I was told Marquez was the branch manager there.

    Why the charade in the player’s (or employee’s) status at the time?

    It was done to keep a player’s amateur status intact, thus assuring his eligibility to see action in international events sanctioned by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) such as the Asian Basketball Confederation (now called the FIBA Asia Championship), Asian Games, World Basketball Championship (now known as the FIBA World Cup) and Summer Olympics.

    By 1990, the masquerade came to a halt as the FIBA introduced the “open basketball” policy that provided no distinction between amateurs and professionals.

    How I often watched the MICAA games as a teenager. To be able to witness the championship duels at the Araneta Coliseum from a “ringside” seat – it was called “ringside” at the time because most of the sporting events at the Big Dome were boxing-related; that section is now called “patron” – brought immense happiness to this hoops junkie.

    Those were the days, my friend. Yet, five decades later, the passion for basketball ...
  4. Basketball: Still Crazy After All These Years

    I am a battle-scarred Filipino who is a year away from acquiring a second citizenship – or rather becoming a senior citizen.

    For the younger generation, life begins at 40. But for us Baby Boomers, life begins at 60.

    At my age, I have also become a basketball dinosaur, a hoops junkie who perhaps is ready to ride onto the sunset.

    I have been chronicling local and international basketball competitions for most of my earthly existence.

    The passion for the sport got into me early.

    At the tender age of eight, I have already been into basketball and reading hoops materials from here and abroad. And I have not looked back since then.

    Along the way, I may have flirted with some other sports such as professional boxing, soccer, bowling and table tennis.

    Of course, that is aside from the girl-oogling that most teenagers do to freshen or lighten up. Tell me, how can one not follow the lead of “Nineteeners” TV host Jose Mari Chan from the swinging 1960s and not stop and talk for a while when the Girl from Ipanema walks in?

    I played the game of soccer, bowling and “pingpong” (or table tennis) during my heyday, but never did I have the guts to take up the bloody sport of boxing.

    My brushes with some bullies during my academic years were the only experiences I had in the punching business.

    For good measure, I also was fascinated with the work ethic and jeet kune do fighting style (spiced with some Kenkoy acts) of the late iconic martial artist Bruce Lee as a teenager in the seventies.
    After all that has been said, my basketball playing/chronicling has neither waned nor set back by any boundaries even until now.
    As Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel of the legendary American musical duo of Simon and Garfunkel would say, I am “Still Crazy After All These Years” with the game of basketball.
    Truly, at age 59, I am still crazy over hoops and nets.
    For the past half-a-century, this Hoopster has actually watched thousands and thousands of games – be it “live” or on television.

    “Been there, done that” I have, from the sandlots to the barangay playground to the Araneta Coliseum and now all the way to the newly-built SM Mall of Asia Arena.

    The journey does not stop here and will never cease to end until my last breath.

    It’s all for the love of basketball.

    Only one Filipino has so far been enshrined in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame.

    The late Dionisio (Chito) Calvo was among the first batch of 43 personages to be inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in March 2007.

    Calvo was one of 24 posthumous inductees under the “contributors” category.

    Three men – Leon Bouffard (Switzerland, the first FIBA president), R. William Jones (Great Britain) and James Naismith (Canada, the inventor of the game basketball) – were even classified as “gold contributors” along with the FIBA’s eight founding federations, which are Argentina, Czech, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland.

    Who is Calvo?

    Calvo was the head coach of the Philippine Olympic team that ranked fifth during the 1936 Berlin Games. The games marked the first time that basketball competitions were held. The fifth-lace finish remains the highest ranking by an Asian country in Olympic men’s basketball history.

    Calvo also steered the PH team to 12th place in the 1948 London Olympics. Likewise, he mentored the Filipinos to the men’s basketball gold during the inaugural Asian Games in New Delhi, India in 1951.

    As an organizer, Calvo initiated the formation of the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC), the harbinger of the FIBA Asia Championship, in 1960.

    According to the official FIBA book “The Basketball World,” the idea of putting up the ABC was first brought up in 1958 in Tokyo by basketball leaders from various Asian countries competing in the Third Asian Games, which included basketball.

    An urgent need was felt to set up a regional controlling body of basketball in Asia and a temporary committee under the chairmanship of Calvo was constituted to look into this possibility.

    Through the efforts of Calvo, the first Asian Conference and Basketball Championship for men was initiated in January 1960 in Manila.

    Seven countries – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Malaya (now Malaysia) and the Philippines – saw action in the tournament. Along with Pakistan, they also attended the Conference at which the draft constitution of the ABC was adopted and the participating countries admitted as members.

    Call it homecourt advantage, the Philippines romped away with the first ABC title in 1960, winning all of its nine assignments. Carlos Badion was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

    The ABC was not officially founded until the second Asian Conference and Basketball Championship for Men was staged in Taipei in November 1963. Attended by nine countries, the ABC constitution and bylaws were ratified during the gathering. Officials such as then-Senator Ambrosio Padilla, president, and Calvo, secretary general, were elected to lead the organization.

    The Conference also resolved to hold men’s championships biennially, while avoiding the even-numbered years wherein the Summer Olympic Games and Asian Games were staged.

    In the local basketball scene, Calvo also organized the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) in 1938. The MICAA league, of course, was the precursor of the professional Philippine basketball Association (PBA).

    The late Gonzalo (Lito) Puyat II was once a candidate for the FIBA Hall of Fame but the former two-term FIBA president (1976-84) failed to make the grade.
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