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  1. Carlos Loyzaga: Greatest Filipino Cager Ever, Part III

    Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga, undisputedly the greatest basketball athlete ever produced by the Philippines, made a name in the international front by earning a stunning six gold medals in as many Asian competitions (four in the Asian Games and two in the Asian Basketball Confederation, now known as the FIBA Asia Championship) from 1951 to 1963 and securing a bronze in the 1954 Rio de Janeiro World Basketball Championship.

    Believe it or not, the Philippines never once registered a losing record during Loyzaga’s 10 international stints, compiling a 58-14 win-loss mark overall, including 41-3 in Asian-level tournaments.

    Check these facts: 1951 New Delhi Asian Games (4-0), 1952 Helsinki Olympics (3-2), 1954 Manila Asian Games (6-0), 1954 Rio de Janeiro World Basketball Championship (6-3), 1956 Melbourne Olympics (4-4), 1958 Tokyo Asian Games (6-1), 1959 Santiago World Basketball Championship (4-2), 1960 Manila Asian Basketball Confederation (9-0), 1962 Jakarta Asian Games (7-0), and 1963 Taipei Asian Basketball Confederation (9-2).

    While Loyzaga’s international play attracted much attention, his performance on home soil was simply awesome.

    Loyzaga started his basketball career at age 12. He sharpened his roundball skills at the Tervalac playground in Teresa, Sampaloc.

    Caloy first saw action with the Santa Mesa Aces. That team also included Pablo and Vicente Cuna, Ramon Lopez, Vicente Siyllon, Bobby and Al Tuazon on the roster. It was coached by Jose Lansang, who later became a referee.

    After the Second World War, Loyzaga joined a team called the Bulldogs.

    He matriculated at the Padre Burgos Elementary School in Santa Mesa, Manila then moved to the National University for his high school education.

    Loyzaga chose San Beda College for his tertiary studies but not known to many, he nearly landed at another college.

    Caloy was ready to enrol at the University of Santo Tomas but before he could don the Glowing Goldies jersey, player and coach Felicisimo (Fely) Fajardo herded him to San Beda College.

    Loyzaga subsequently powered SBC to four championships.

    Anchored the do-everything Loyzaga, the Red Lions romped away with consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles in 1951 and 1952. The Mendiola-based school also snared the National Open crown in 1951, which was then the biggest plum in local hoopdom.

    Around this time, this goldmine with the mestizo looks named Loyzaga was already getting a lot of journalistic ink from local sportswriters and broadcasters.

    Not only did he hog the headlines in the collegiate ranks, he also was deep into the consciousness of sports-loving Filipinos as a member of the national team.

    Sports media described him as the “nonpareil” and being in “a class all by himself” in tribute to his all-around talent.

    However, the tag that stuck was “The Great Difference,” coined by the venerable sportscaster Willie Hernandez who said, “In any game, Loyzaga was the great difference.”

    Gabriel (Gabby) Fajardo, the younger brother of Fely who himself was a former national player and one of Caloy’s early coaches, observed: “He had the height, speed and a great shooting arm for a game that called for height, speed and good shooting.”

    “As a center, he utilized his height,” said another basketball expert. “He could shoot, that’s for sure, and from all angles, either from long or short range.”

    Hernandez added, “I don’t want to sound too exaggerated, but to me, he is the best player of all time. He could play any position although he was unbeatable at the pivot.”

    Loyzaga’s post-graduate exploits in Philippine basketball were just as dominating.
  2. CALOY LOYZAGA: *GREATEST FILIPINO CAGER EVER, PART II

    Prominent Filipino basketball athletes have come and gone since the 1900s, but no one player, active or retired, had more experience in international competitions than Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga.

    The multi-dimensional Loyzaga donned the Philippine national colors a total of 10 times, including four stints outside of the Asian region. *The most memorable appearance came during the 2nd FIBA World Basketball Championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from October 22 to November 5, 1954.

    In that prestigious quadrennial meet, the Philippines grabbed the bronze medal for the highest finish ever by an Asian country in WBC history.

    Only the United States (gold) and host Brazil (silver) fared better than the Filipinos.

    A dozen countries took part in the two-week tournament. *Seven came from the Americas, three from Europe and a pair from Asia.

    Because the Brazilian government did not have diplomatic ties with the governments of the socialist countries of Europe at the time, some of the best teams from that continent (champion Soviet Union, second-placer Hungary and fourth-placer Czechoslovakia) were no-shows.

    The best teams from the Americas were present with the exception of Mexico, which had declined an invitation.

    The top squads from Asia – the Philippines and Formosa (Taiwan/now known as Chinese-Taipei) – were also in attendance.

    From Europe, however, the best teams were absent as only France, Israel and Yugoslavia could take part. *They finished third, fifth and sixth, respectively, during the 1953 European Championships (now known as EuroBasket).

    Despite employing a second-rate unit, the United States grabbed the World crown with a perfect 9-0 record, blasting host Brazil, 62-41, in the gold-medal game.

    The Americans’ lowest winning margin was five points, a 64-59 (30-26) decision over sixth-place Uruguay in the eight-team final round.

    There are two reasons why the Americans were unable to send their best amateur team.

    Firstly, the date of the tournament made it practically impossible to call on players from the colleges and universities.

    It was aggravated by the fact that the tournament largely had been held south of the Equator, thus making the choice of the dates unsuitable for teams coming from the north.

    Secondly, it was the U.S. Olympic Basketball Committee that chose its Olympic team at the time and it had the luxury of utilizing players from all sections of the country, including the top colleges and universities.

    In contrast, the U.S. squads to the World Basketball Championship were selected by the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union, which could tap only players from the industrial or commercial leagues, the minor colleges and the American Armed Forces.

    In 1954, Brazil took the silver medal with an 8-1 record, including a pair of victories over the Philippines (99-63 in the preliminary round and 57-41 in the eight-team final round).

    In the final round, 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 Philippine squad rallied at the start of the second half and grabbed a 31-26 advantage. *However, the Americans’ offense got rolling and with three minutes remaining, the U.S. took control, 49-31, before securing the victory.

    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 skipper Lauro (The Fox) Mumar topscored with 14 markers and 6-2 Jose Rizal College hotshot Mariano (Nano) Tolentino had 11.

    The Philippines wound up with a 6-3 overall record (including 1-1 in the preliminaries) during the tournament and officially clinched the bronze medal with a 66-60 win over France in the team’s penultimate assignment in the final round, where all eight teams played against each other on a round-robin basis without any playoffs.

    Loyzaga tallied 20 points against the fourth-ranked French.

    In the finale against sixth-place Uruguay, the hulking 6-3 center exploded for 33 markers as he powered the Filipinos to a 67-63 success despite the absence of head coach Herminio Silva, who had called in sick that day.

    Loyzaga finished as the tournament’s third-leading scorer, averaging 16.4 points in nine assignments. *Only Uruguay’s Oscar Moglia (18.6 ppg) and Canada’s Carl Ridd (18.2 ppg) posted higher scoring averages.

    Deservedly so, Loyzaga was named to the five-man All-Tournament Team, along with Minter, Moglia and Brazil’s Zenny de Azevedo and Wlamir Marques. *Loyzaga was the lone Asian on the Mythical Team.

    In support of Loyzaga, team captain Lauro (The Fox) ...
  3. CALOY LOYZAGA: *The Greatest Filipino Cager Ever, Part I

    You did not have to love him or hate him; he simply was a charismatic figure who was admired by all.

    He was not a living legend because of media’s creation; he was a legendary figure in his own time who simply walked the talk on the hardwood in workmanlike fashion.

    His name: *Carlos Loyzaga, the greatest player ever in Philippine basketball history.

    Loyzaga, who turns 82 on August 29, now lives in Australia, bereft of any substantial benefits from the Philippine government that befits his stature as one of the country’s national treasures.

    How sad it is. *

    Long before the People’s Republic of China came to dominate the Asian basketball scene in the mid-1970s, the Philippines was the sport’s undisputed kingpin this side of the Pacific.

    This decades-long reign was mainly due to Loyzaga, arguably the most outstanding cager that the Philippines has ever produced.

    Caloy, as Loyzaga is fondly called, was largely responsible for turning basketball into the country’s national pastime.

    A bull-strong 6-3, 200-pound center in his prime, Loyzaga spanned an era that contributed in no small measure to the tremendous popularity currently enjoyed by the game among the Filipinos.

    If there is a single 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 the Pele of basketball in the Philippines.

    Loyzaga was a rarity in that he could play all three positions – center, guard and forward – with equal efficiency.

    But it was as a center that he was most recognized – a tough, deadly and grace slotman who sowed terror in the hearts of his adversaries.

    Talking about Loyzaga is like leafing through the pages of the sport’s golden era in the Philippines.

    In the 1950s, the Filipinos never lost a basketball title in Asia.

    Loyzaga was so awesome that the Philippines could then compete creditably at the international level, proof of which was the country’s bronze-medal finish at the 1954 FIBA World Basketball Championship (now known as FIBA World Cup) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    Until now, it has remained the highest finish ever by an Asian country in the prestigious quadrennial competitions among the world’s top basketball athletes.

    Making it to the national team at age 21, Loyzaga, who was born on August 29, 1930 in San Jose, Mindoro Oriental, represented the national tri-colors for the first time during the 1951 Asian Games in New Delhi, India where the Filipinos broke through with a gold-medal finish and a perfect 4-0 record.

    It was the start of a long, brilliant career by Loyzaga as a national player, halted only with his retirement in 1964.

    Loyzaga was a hands-down choice to suit up in the 1960 Rome Olympics but failed to join the Nationals when he tripped and broke his right wrist while playing softball at the Cortabitarte Field, which is now occupied by the Ospital ng Maynila.

    Still and all, Loyzaga was able to catapult the Philippines to four straight gold-medal finishes in the Asian Games – 1951 in New Delhi, 1954 in Manila, 1958 in Tokyo (Japan) and 1962 in Jakarta (Indonesia), the latter of which was the last time that the country secured the gold medal in the regional quadrennial games.

    There also was a pair of championships in the Asian Basketball Confederation tournament (now known as the FIBA Asia Championship) in 1960 in Manila and 1963 in Taipei (Taiwan).

    For his winning efforts, Loyzaga was named to the All-Star Mythical Five in the inaugural (1960) ABC games.

    Loyzaga also spearheaded the country’s participation in various international competitions outside of Asia during his distinguished playing tenure.

    He donned the national jersey during the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, stunningly earned a bronze during the 1954 World Basketball Championship in Rio de Janeiro, and saw action in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where the Philippines finished seventh; the 1959 WBC in Santiago, Chile, and the 1962 World invitational tournament in Manila.

    Loyzaga impressed observers so much during the 1956 Melbourne Olympiad that he was twice offered athletic scholarships at the University of Oregon. *But Caloy rejected the offers.
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