Elias Tolentino, 1960s basketball star, dies at 75

MANILA, Philippines – Elias Tolentino, the 1960s basketball star with the picture-perfect jumpshot, passed away on Sunday, November 19, in the afternoon, said his former national teammate Ed Roque.

Tolentino, 75, died of a lingering illness which he battled for two years, said Roque who was at his bedside. He was a councilor of Makati City for a long time.

6-foot-2, and with his thick black pomaded hair which stayed in place despite tension on the court,  Tolentino's perimeter jump shot was like a dagger to the opposing team.

Legendary sportscaster Willie Hernandez of Manila Broadcasting Co., called Tolentino "The Mikado Man" after a brand of pomade sold in the country every time he sank a basket, collared a rebound or blocked a shot.

His skill and good looks made Tolentino a big draw for female basketball fans along with his Yco teammates Sonny Reyes and Edgardo Gomez.

Tolentino shone in an era where Philippine basketball players were feared for being skillful and tough. "He never backed down," said Roque, who played with Tolentino for national teams since from 1963 to 1968, including the 1967 squad, nicknamed "The Dirty Dozen," that won the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC). The ABC was the forerunner of today's FIBA-Asia. 

He also made the 1968 Mexico Olympic team and missed suiting up for the 1972 Munich Olympiad.

Tolentino, in an interview with a forthcoming basketball book, said he worked out on his own near his home in Makati, when much of it was rural. "I shot 50 times a day. I jogged. I did it because I wanted to play in the commercial league."

The 18-year-old Jose Rizal University center-forward showed his wares by playing for the Crispa team that placed second in the 1960 National Open. The Yco Painters, needing new talent to head off the challenge of Ysmael Steel, recruited him.

With most forwards or players his height preferring the inside game, Tolentino's outside shooting was quite rare for a big man.  When he launched his jump shot, his backspin was well executed. " You can list it down as a field goal but we had to screen him," said his teammate Arturo Valenzona, who later became a top coach.

Tolentino stayed with Yco for more than 14 years but when the Philippine Basketball Association began in 1975, Tolentino played for Toyota. – Rappler.com