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When will RP produce another Loyzaga?

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By Manolo Iñigo Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--There is no question that Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga is the greatest Filipino basketball player in history, but little else is known about how he started his checkered career. Loyzaga, who marks his 77th birth anniversary on Wednesday, was born on Aug. 29. 1930 to a family with a penchant for sports in San Jose, Mindoro. There, the Loyzaga boys organized a basketball team, with the tall and gangling Caloy at the helm. Already showing signs of greatness and towering at 6-foot-3 (a rarity among local players at that time), the young Loyzaga moved from sandlot basketball in Mindoro to the big time in Manila by joining the star-studded Sta. Mesa Aces in 1942. Among his teammates were Pablo and Vicente Cuna, Ramon Lopez, former chair of the Letran College Sports Hall of Fame; Vicente Ayllon of Insular Life, brothers Bobby and Al Tuason and Dick Taylor of radio broadcast fame. Their coach was Jose “Pepe” Lansang, who also became famous as a topnotch referee. After finishing his elementary education at the P. Burgos elementary school in Sta. Mesa and high school at the National University in 1948, Loyzaga wanted to enroll at Letran, but he backed out at the last minute when the coach gave him a cold shoulder. He was about to enroll at the University of Santo Thomas but this did not materialize when former Olympian Fely Fajardo, then the San Beda College coach, spotted Loyzaga and took him to Mendiola where he polished his style. * * * In his prime, Loyzaga was called the “Big Difference” because his absence from his team could mean defeat and he could turn defeat into victory with his presence. In the NCAA cage wars for the coveted Zamora Trophy in the 1950s, San Beda lost its title bid when Loyzaga did not see action due to scholastic reasons. But when Loyzaga returned to play for the Red Lions, San Beda retired the Zamora Trophy by winning the championships three times in 1951, 1952 and 1955. Excelling as a shooter, rebounder and center, Loyzaga led the powerhouse Yco Painters team to several Manila Industrial Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) championships and a record 10 straight victories in the National Open. * * * In 1954, Loyzaga spearheaded the Philippine team that finished third in the Second World Basketball Championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He capped that memorable year by landing a berth in the tournament’s Mythical Selection. He made his Olympic debut in Helsinki in 1952 and saw action in the 1956 Melbourne Games. He missed the trip to the Rome Olympics in 1960 due to a wrist injury he suffered while playing softball. In the Asian Games, Loyzaga sparked the Philippines to four consecutive championships (1951 New Delhi, 1954 Manila, 1958 Tokyo and 1962 Jakarta). He was also the team captain of the winning RP squad to the ABC championship (now FIBA Asia) in the 1960 Manila and 1963 Taipei tournaments. As a coach, he piloted the Philippine quintet to the 1967 ABC crown and to 13th place in the 1968 Mexico Olympics. A former Manila councilor, Loyzaga is now based in Australia. He is married to the former Vicky Cuerva with whom he has four children: Chito, Joey, Teresa and Bing.

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