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Henry Liao

Farewell, King Caloy

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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.

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