NO one can be called the ‘greatest Filipino basketball player in his era,’ except this six-foot-three center, forward, and guard – Carlos ‘Caloy’ Loyzaga.
He can play all three positions in basketball with the same intensity, cleverness, and adeptness. But he is more feared in the hard court when playing center. Aside from piloting thePhilippine Team to a third-place finish in the 1954 World Basketball Championship (FIBA World Championship, Oct. 22 – Nov. 5, 1954) he was chosen as the top member of the Mythical Five. Up to this day, no other Philippine national team can match our third-place finish in Ginasio do Maracanazino, Rio de Janerio, Brazil.
The powerhouse tournament was participated in by 12 nations – Brazil, Paraguay, Philippines (Group A); Canada, Peru, United States (Group B); France, Uruguay, Yugoslavia (Group C); Chile, Formosa [now Taiwan], Israel (Group D). In Group A, we beat Paraguay (64-52) and lost to Brazil (99-62) in the preliminary games.
In the final round, we beat Israel (90-56), Canada (83-76), France (66-60), Uruguay (67-63), but lost to the U.S. (56-43) and to Brazil (57-41).
The final ranking was: 1) United States (9 wins – 0 loss), Brazil (8-1), Philippines (6-3), France (4-5), Taiwan (3-6), Uruguay (4-5), Canada (3-6), Israel (2-7), Paraguay (3-2), Chile (3-2), Yoguslavia (1-4) and Peru (0-5). This was the first championship for the US team, it was only second in the First FIBA games in 1950, which was won by host Argentina.
The Mythical Five
Caloy Loyzaga was one of the most highly regarded by the journalists who covered the event and basketball officials who have witnessed his brand of play. Proof is, he was chosen in the ‘Mythical Five’ (All-Tournament Team), composed of: 1) Carlos Loyzaga, 2) Kirby Minter (U.S.), 3) Oscar Moglia (Uruguay), 4) Zenny ‘Algodao’ de Azevero (Brazil), and 5) Llamir Marquez (Brazil). In the 1959 FIBA World Cup, Loyzaga was also included in the Mythical Five.
The Philippine Team
Aside from Loyzaga (16.4 points per game, 65.2% field goal accuracy), the Philippine team was composed of Lauro ‘the Fox’ Mumar (9.9 ppg, 62.9% fg), Bayani Amador, Rafael Barreto, Florentino Batista, Francisco Benjamon, Napoleon Flores, Antonio Genato, Ramon Manulat, Mariano Palentino, Francisco Rabat, and Ponciano Saldana.
Loyzaga wanted to enroll at San Juan de Letran in circa 1950 but he was given a cold shoulder. Later, Fely Fajardo, the brother of his mentor, Gabby, recruited him to San Beda Red Lions. In 1951 and 1952, San Beda emerged as champions in the NCAA basketball league.
When Loyzaga joined the Yco Painters in 1954 under the MICAA (Manila Commercial Industrial Athletic Association), he led the team to eight championships from 1954-1964. His complete absence means a loss to his team. This could probably be the reason why he was acknowledged as ‘the big difference.’
He was with the national team that won the championship in Asian Games in 1951 (New Delhi), 1954 (Manila), 1958 (Tokyo), and 1962 (Jakarta); 9th place in the 1952 Olympic Games, seventh place in the 1956 Olympics,8th place in the 1959 FIBA World Championship, champions in the 1960, 1963, and 1967 FIBA Asia, and 13th place in the 1968 Olympic Games.
Coaching Career and Personal Life
‘The Big Difference’ was a player-coach for YCO Painters during the 60s, subsequently became head coach of YCO after retirement from playing. Aside from coaching the University of Santo Tomas men’s basketball team in the UAAP, he also coached our basketball team that won the 1967 FIBA Asia Championship.
Loyzaga is the father of former basketball players Chito and Joey, as well as actresses Bing and Teresa.
Even the much taller Filipino players in this generation cannot match the achievements of ‘The Big Difference’ and his team.