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  1. CARLOS LOYZAGA: *GREATEST FILIPINO CAGER EVER, PART IV

    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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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) ...

 
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