Basketball loses Loyzaga, ‘The Big Difference’

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The man who made the biggest difference in Philippine basketball passed away yesterday and with him went the remnants of its golden era  in the ’50s and ’60s.

Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga, nicknamed “The Big Difference” and acknowledged as the greatest Filipino basketball player of all time, succumbed to poor health at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center. He was 85.

Among the longest living athletes of his generation of cage greats, Loyzaga had been in delicate condition since he suffered a stroke years ago.

Loyzaga was not just the best Filipino player, but among the best in the world during his time.

The 6-foot-3 do-it-all player was a two-time Olympian and led the Philippines to a bronze medal finish in the 1954 World Championship in Rio de Janeiro, where he gained a spot in the tourney’s mythical selection.

No other Asian team has had a better finish in the world meet and the Philippines’ third place feat remains unmatched.

The Philippines reigned supreme in Asian basketball unfailingly with Loyzaga as the main anchor of Team Phl in the ’50s to the early ’60s.

The former San Beda King Lion played in four gold medal winning Philippine teams in the Asian Games (1951 New Delhi, 1954 Manila, 1958 Tokyo and 1962 Jakarta) and in two triumphant squads in the Asian Basketball Championships (1960 Manila and 1963 Taipei).

Curiously, the Philippines saw the end of its reign in the Asian Games in 1966, two years after the retirement of Loyzaga.

The Filipinos were back on the Asian throne in 1967 when he coached Team Phl (then known as the Dirty Dozen) to the ABC championship (now known as FIBA Asia Championship). He also handled teams later on in the Philippine Basketball Association.

But his performance in the 1954 world joust was easily the highlight of his storied career. He averaged 16.4 points topped by a 31-point explosion in a 67-63 victory over Uruguay that handed them the bronze.

The other members of the team were Lauro Mumar, Francisco Rabat, Nap Flores, Mariano Tolentino, Ben Francisco, Rafael Barreto, Pons Saldaña, Florentino Bautista, Ramon Manulat, Bayani Amador and Tony Genato.

He averaged 17.3 points in the 1956 Olympics. In his first Olympiad in 1952, he normed 11.5.

All the highest sports awards in the land have been bestowed on him. He was named among the greatest Filipino athletes of all time by the Philippine Sportswriters Association and was among the first batch of athletes enshrined in the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame.

Sons Chito and Joey followed his footsteps while daughters Teresa and Bing are in show business.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Olympic Committee membership paid its respects to the two-time Olympian by offering a minute of silence before its general assembly and recalled Loyzaga’s greatness.

“Caloy definitely will not be forgotten. He was by far, the best player I’ve seen on the local scene,” said Frank Elizalde, former International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines.

Elizalde had the privilege of seeing Loyzaga up close as the latter played for the YCO Painters, a MICAA team owned by their family.

“He was not only a good player but he was a good person, a low-key guy,” Elizalde said.

POC president Peping Cojuangco himself got to watch Loyzaga play in the MICAA and the national team.

“For a star player, I don’t even remember that he was in any controversy,” said Cojuangco, adding that today’s cagers and athletes could learn values from “King Caloy.”

“He had a fighting heart and dedication,” said Cojuangco.

“He was a big man that didn’t play like a big man. Because here at that time if you’re 6-3, 6-4, you play big, slow. Caloy was not like that,” said Cojuangco.

“He was really the Big Difference because he literally stood head and shoulders above his teammates,” said Elizalde.












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