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Henry Liao


    *Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga is to Philippine basketball what Bill Russell is to the U.S. National Basketball Association.
    Russell went to the NBA Finals well a dozen times during his illustrious pro career and struck water on a league-record 11 occasions.
    Loyzaga, on the other hand, made the Philippines proud in the international arena after collecting a stunning six gold medals in as many Asian competitions (four in the Asian Games and two in the Asian Basketball Confederation, the harbinger of the FIBA Asia Championship) from 1951 to 1963 and securing a bronze during the 1954 Rio de Janeiro World Basketball Championship (which will be renamed FIBA World Cup of Basketball next year in Spain).
    Significantly, the 6-10 Russell and the 6-3 Loyzaga faced each other during the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.* In a first-round action, the United States crushed the Philippines, 121-53 (66-23).* The Americans went on to secure the gold medal while the Filipinos, who posted a 4-4 record, settled for seventh place after getting back at their quarterfinal tormentor Chile, 75-68 (33-3.
    Unquestionably, the most memorable international appearance for the multi-dimensional Loyzaga was the 2nd FIBA WBC in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from October 22 to November 5, 1954.
    In that quadrennial showcase, the Philippines grabbed the bronze medal for the highest finish ever by an Asian country in WBC history.* Only the U.S. (gold) and Brazil (silver) fared better than the Filipinos.
    A dozen countries took part in the two-week competitions.* Seven came from the Americas, three from Europe and a pair from Asia – the Philippines and Formosa (Taiwan/now known as Chinese-Taipei).
    Despite employing a second-rate unit, the Yanks snared the World title with an unblemished 9-0 mark.* They whipped the host Brazilians, 62-41, in the gold-medal encounter.
    The Americans’ lowest winning margin was five points, a 64-59 (30-26) decision over sixth-place Uruguay in the eight-team final round.
    At the time, the U.S. teams to the World Basketball Championship were selected by the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union, which could only tap players from the industrial or commercial leagues, the minor colleges and the American Armed Forces.
    Brazil, which took the silver medal with an 8-1 card, registered a pair of victories over the Philippines during the tournament – 99-63 in the preliminary round and 57-41 in the eight-team final round.
    In the final phase, the Filipinos dropped a 56-43 decision to eventual titlist United States but not before giving the Americans a scare.* Trailing by only three points at the half, 25-22, the courageous PH squad rallied at the start of the second half and even grabbed a 31-26 advantage.
    However, the Americans’ offense got rolling, having scored 23 consecutive points to establish control, 49-31, with three minutes remaining en route to a 13-point triumph.
    Kirby Minter, a 6-6 forward, led the Americans with 15 points.* Loyzaga was one of three Filipinos in double-digit scores with 12 points.* Team captain Lauro (The Fox) Mumar topscored with 14 markers and 6-2 Jose Rizal College hotshot Mariano (Nano) Tolentino chipped in with 11.
    The Philippines wound up with a 6-3 overall record (including 1-1 in the preliminaries) during the tournament.
    It officially clinched the bronze medal with a 66-60 victory over France in the team’s penultimate assignment in the final round, where all eight participants played against each other on a round-robin basis without any playoffs.* Loyzaga collected 20 points against the fourth-ranked French.
    In the final contest against sixth-place Uruguay, the hulking but springy Loyzaga exploded for 33 markers as he propelled the Filipinos to a 67-63 success despite the absence of head coach Herminio Silva, who had called in sick that day.
    Caloy averaged 16.4 points in nine games, the third-highest in the tournament.* Only Uruguay’s Oscar Moglia (18.6 ppg) and Canada’s Carl Ridd (18.2 ppg) registered higher scoring averages.
    Deservedly so, Loyzaga was the lone Asian on the five-man Mythical Team.

    Caloy Loyzaga, undisputedly the greatest Filipino basketball player ever, in is town for the formal launching of the “King Caloy” on March 20 at the San Beda College chapel in Mendiola.
    The book, which consists over 100 pages, features various stories on Loyzaga throughout his brilliant cage career.*
    Loyzaga, who turns 83 on August 29, migrated to Australia during the eighties.* He played varsity ball at San Beda College during his heyday, propelling the Red Lions to four championships during the 1950s – National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles in 1951, 1952 and 1955 and the National Open crown in 1951, which was then the biggest plum in local basketball.
    A bull-strong 6-3, 200-pound center in his prime, Loyzaga spanned an era that contributed in no small measure to the huge popularity currently enjoyed by the game among the Filipinos.
    If there is a singular personality responsible for enhancing the mass appeal of any sport in his country, he would be Loyzaga, known as “The Big Difference,” “The Great Difference” and “King Caloy” during his time.
    Loyzaga was a rarity in that he could play all three positions – center, forward and guard – with equal efficiency.* But it was at center that Caloy was most recognized – a tough, deadly and graceful slotman who sowed terror in the heart of his adversaries.
    Loyzaga was a dominant force even at the commercial/post-graduate level, latching on with the fabled Yco Athletic Club in 1954 after powering PRATRA and PRISCO to the National Open championship in 1950 and 1953, respectively.* With Yco, he helped the Redshirts/Painters put together a 49-game winning streak from 1954 to 1956.* Loyzaga took over as the commercial club’s head coach after hanging up his jersey in 1964.
    Loyzaga subsequently became the national team mentor.* He piloted the gold medal-winning PH “Dirty Dozen” team in the 1967 Seoul Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) tournament (now known as the FIBA Asia Championship) and the 1968 Mexico Olympics squad.
    Loyzaga also took a crack at local politics at the height of his popularity, winning as a councilor in the City of Manila, before migrating to Australia for a job with a security agency.
    Talking about Loyzaga is like leafing through the pages of the sport’s golden era in the Philippines.
    And much of Caloy’s greatness can be gleaned from his stunning performances in the international front.
    Under the baton of Loyzaga, the Filipinos never lost an Asian basketball title during the 1950s and early 1960s, coming up with six gold medals in as many continental competitions – four in the Asian Games, 1951-1954-1958-1962, and two in the ABC tournament, 1960-1963.
    The Philippines also grabbed the bronze medal during the 1954 Rio de Janeiro World Basketball Championship as Loyzaga earned a slot on the five-man All-Tournament Team with a tournament third-leading 16.4-point average.
    Believe it or not, the Philippines never once registered a losing record during Loyzaga’s 10 international stints (including Olympic appearances in Helsinki in 1952 and in Melbourne in 1956 and a second World Basketball Championship in Santiago, Chile in 1959).
    The Filipinos compiled a 58-14 win-loss mark overall, including 41-3 in Asian-level competitions, during the Loyzaga era.
    Wonder no more why Loyzaga is the greatest basketball player ever produced by the Philippines.

    With the National Collegiate Athletic Association debut of the venerable Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga in 1951, the San Beda College Red Lions mightily roared back to championship level.

    Over a five-year period, the Benedictine-run school romped away with four titles, including three NCAA crowns.

    Loyzaga averaged nearly 20 points per game as San Beda claimed the 1951 NCAA diadem. *The multi-dimensional 6-3 slotman’s supporting cast included Ponciano Saldaña, Eduardo Lim, Antonio Genato and brothers Pablo and Vicente Cuna.

    The Red Lions successfully defended their crown the following year, knocking off De La Salle, 50-39, in the finals before a mammoth crowd of 11,000 at the Rizal memorial Coliseum.

    Loyzaga scored a game-high 18 points, including 10 in the decisive fourth quarter, and put the defensive clamps on De La Salle’s towering Rene Wassmer during the same stretch.

    The Green Archers had rallied to take a 32-31 lead at the end of the third quarter. *But Caloy staged a last-quarter one-man show, blocking Wassmer in mid-air then dribbling through for a layup to bring the advantage back to the Red Lions, 33-32.

    After connecting on a free throw, Loyzaga tallied seven more points to douse any comeback by De La Salle, which scored just seven markers in the final 10 minutes.

    In 1952, San Beda College also snared the prestigious National Open crown, which was considered the biggest plum in local hoopdom at the time as it featured the country’s top commercial clubs and prominent college teams in action.

    Thanks to his outstanding performance for the year, the influential Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) bestowed the title “Mr. Basketball of 1952” on Loyzaga.

    Loyzaga’s dominating exploits can be gleaned from one newspaper report dated January 16, 1953 that stated the following: *“Carlos (Pomfret) Loyzaga stepped once more into his familiar role of San Beda’s big hero when he single-handedly beat the star-studded Yco Redshirts, 29-28, in the National Open tournament with a glittering 17-point overall performance.”

    Played before an audience of 8,000 at the Rizal Coliseum, the game, which the defending champion Red Lions won on a charity shot by Loyzaga in the final five seconds, actually mirrored Caloy’s entire cage life.

    Issuing slick passes, making pivot shots and barrelling his way into the shaded lane were his signature moves.

    In 1953, Ateneo de Manila, behind high-leaping and league Most Valuable Player Francisco (Frankie) Rabat, stripped the NCAA crown from the Red Lions’ head, however.

    The Blue Eagles stopped Loyzaga and his San Beda backups, 63-59, in the finals.

    Ateneo made it two titles in a row the following campaign as San Beda was disoriented by the absence of Loyzaga for academic reasons.

    Because Caloy was not in a position to impose his will at the shaded lane against the opposition, the Red Lions were badly beaten by the Blue Eagles, 74-65, for the championship.

    With San Beda and Ateneo each having crowned themselves as champions twice during the four-year period, the stage was clear for a rematch between the two powerhouse schools for the right to claim permanent possession of the prestigious three-legged Crispulo Zamora Cup that was awarded by the NCAA to the first team that won three titles after World War II.

    Not known to many, basketball was not really the first love of Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga, reputedly the greatest player in Philippine basketball annals.

    Neither was San Beda College his original choice for a tertiary education.

    According to the 2004 book “Legends and Heroes of Philippine Basketball” authored by Christian Bocobo and Beth Celis, Loyzaga’s first sport was soccer (or football).

    Like his dad Joaquin Sr., who was a member of the national football team to the Far Eastern Games (the forerunner of the Asian Games), Caloy owned a collection of medals he won as a footballer.

    A multi-sport athlete, Loyzaga also dubbed in playground basketball in his hometown in San Jose, Mindoro Oriental as a youngster before migrating to the big city that is Manila.

    Barely 12 years old, Caloy hooked up with the star-laden Sta. Mesa Aces in 1942.

    Loyzaga matriculated at the Padre Burgos Elementary School along Santa Mesa, Manila.

    In 1948, he transferred to the National University for his high school education.

    Loyzaga eventually landed at San Beda College in 1950 but not before considering other schools.

    According to various reports, Loyzaga wanted to enroll at Colegio de San Juan de Letran but backed out at the eleventh hour when then-Knights coach Angel de Leon allegedly gave him a cold treatment.

    Additionally, Loyzaga was set to matriculate at the University of Santo Tomas. *Before he could don the Glowing Goldies jersey, though, former Olympic player and coach Felicisimo (Fely) Fajardo, San Beda’s head coach at the time, spotted Caloy and brought him to the Mendiola campus where he was to polish his multi-dimensional skills.

    To be fair to all, Letran was a veritable option for Loyzaga.

    In 1950, the Knights, behind the legendary “Murder, Inc.” unit led by league Most Valuable Player Lauro (The Fox) Mumar, Herminio Astorga (who later became the Vice-Mayor of Manila) and Luis Tabuena (who later became the Games and Amusements Board chairman and the general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority during the Marcos era), went on to grab the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) crown.

    That season, Letran scored nine straight victories during the six-team, double-round competitions.

    Only San Beda stood the way for a 10-game season sweep and an outright championship by the Muralla-based school.

    The Knights, however, were deprived of an undefeated season when they bowed to the Red Lions, 56-51, in their 10th assignment.

    In a playoff, Letran exacted revenge with a 66-55 thrashing of the Bedans to secure the second NCAA title in school history.

    Loyzaga was unable to see action for SBC during the 1950 NCAA campaign due to residence eligibility problems. *This came about after he had played in the 1948 National Secondary Championship with the National University Bullpups.

    Loyzaga instead spent the year helping guide the PRATRA All-Stars past Terminal (the 1949 Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association champion) for both the National Open and MICAA titles.

    With Loyzaga’s NCAA debut in 1951, the Red Lions of San Beda came roaring back with a vengeance.

    All-time basketball great Carlos Loyzaga was a dominant force even at the local commercial/post-graduate level.

    A product of San Beda College, Loyzaga suited up for PRATRA and PRISCO that captured the National Open championship in 1950 and 1953, respectively.

    In 1954, Loyzaga hooked up with the fabled Yco Athletic Club that played in the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) league, the predecessor of the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

    Together with some of the game’s greatest names, the bull-strong and versatile 6-3, 200-pound center established records for the Painters which may never be duplicated in Philippine basketball history.

    It was with Loyzaga that Yco put together 49 consecutive victories from 1954 to 1956.

    In 1954, the Painters accomplished the first so-called Grand Slam in local hoops when they bagged the National Open, Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) and Challenge to Champion titles.

    The annual National Open competitions featured all-comers, including top commercial clubs and prominent collegiate squads such as San Beda College, Ateneo de Manila, Far Eastern University, University of Santo Tomas, and Colegio de San Juan de Letran.

    Yco collared a record seven straight National Open championships starting in 1954.

    By April of 1960, Loyzaga had taken a dual role with the Painters as their playing coach. *In his first stint in a concurrent capacity, he piloted Yco to the MICAA crown against Ysmael Steel.

    The Painters’ winning streak in the National Open was halted only in 1961 when their arch nemesis, the Ysmael Steel Admirals, rose to provide, together with Caloy’s team, what may be the greatest single rivalry in local basketball history (counting even the Ateneo vs. De La Salle and Crispa vs. Toyota rivalries).

    Following a year’s stint with the Painters, Loyzaga returned to the collegiate hardwood in 1955 and helped the San Beda College Red Lions claim permanent possession of the prestigious three-legged Crispulo Zamora Cup with another National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title.

    The Zamora Cup was the hardware awarded by the NCAA to the first team that captured three championships after the Second World War.

    After 15 long, fruitful years in the major leagues, Loyzaga finally felt the ravages of time take their toll.

    Injuries, including a recurring knee ailment, had become increasingly painful to bear.

    In 1964, King Caloy hung up his jersey.

    But even as he did, Loyzaga had left behind a legacy that may never be equalled in the whole of Asia.
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