Philippine basketball

FAST FACTS: Caloy Loyzaga, the first Filipino player in the FIBA Hall of Fame

Philip Matel

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FAST FACTS: Caloy Loyzaga, the first Filipino player in the FIBA Hall of Fame

LEGEND. Caloy Loyzaga looks to get past a phalanx of defenders.


Caloy Loyzaga, set to be inducted posthumously in the FIBA Hall of Fame Class of 2023, highlights a glittering international basketball career with a bronze for the Philippines in the 1954 World Championships – still the best finish by any Asian country

MANILA, Philippines – Affectionately called the “Big Difference” for his massive presence in tilting the tides in favor of the Philippines, Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga got inducted to the FIBA Hall of Fame on Wednesday night, August 23, at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

Undoubtedly the most decorated Filipino basketball player internationally, Loyzaga was posthumously enshrined along with China skyscraper Yao Ming, Brazilian legend Wlamir Marques, Spain’s Amaya Valdemoro, and Australia’s Penny Taylor.

Also inducted in the Class of 2023 were USA’s Katrina McClain, Japan’s Yuko Oga, Indonesia’s Sony Hendrawan, Angola’s Angelo Monteiro dos Santos Victoriano, and Georgia’s Zurab Sakandelidze (posthumous), along with coaches Valerie Garnier of France and Alessandro Gamba of Italy.

Loyzaga was the first Filipino player to be bestowed the honor, and the second Filipino after his coach Dionisio Calvo, who was inducted in the pioneering batch of the Hall of Fame in 2007.

It was a fitting honor as the Philippines starts its co-hosting duties in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, along with Indonesia and Japan, on Friday, August 25, at the Philippine Arena.

Here are some interesting facts on “King Caloy,” Philippine basketball’s GOAT (Greatest of All Time).

Red Lions stalwart 

Born on August 29, 1930 to Joaquin Loyzaga Sr. and Carmen Matute, Caloy got his athletic genes from his father, a football player who played for the Philippine team in the Far Eastern Championship Games, the forerunner of the Asian Games in the 1910s.

Loyzaga honed his craft at the Teresa Valenzuela Athletic Club (TERVALAC) courts of Sta. Mesa, Manila, where he was discovered by Gabby Fajardo, who competed in the 1948 London Olympics.

Exiting high school early to participate in the junior MICAA, the young offshoot of the premier basketball league, Loyzaga helped lead the Philippine Relief and Trade Rehabilitation Administration (PRATRA) team to the 1949 title.

He then played collegiate hoops for San Beda College, where he led the Red Lions to three NCAA crowns, earning the coveted Zamora trophy, only awarded to the team with at least three championships.

49-game win streak

During his time in Mendiola, Loyzaga also signed with the PRATRA senior team, where he led them to two National Open titles in 1950 and 1954.

He then left for the YCO Painters, one of the powerhouse teams of the MICAA, where he helped them achieve a 49-game win streak from 1954 to 56, as well as numerous MICAA titles and National Open diadems.

After briefly serving as player-coach for YCO, he hung up his sneakers in 1964.

International stardom

Already a star player at home, Loyzaga shone even brighter in the global stage.

Standing at just 6-foot-3 – small in today’s standards but a luxury during those times – Loyzaga was gifted the skills of all-around play as he could shoot, dribble, pass, and defend fellow big men, utilizing his long limbs and impeccable timing.

He was described by former teammates as a great complementary cager as he was not a ball hog despite his impressive skillset.

“He would get angry if you didn’t cut to receive a pass,” said Loreto Cabonnell in a 2016 Rappler interview following Loyzaga’s death.

Having led the Philippines to the first basketball title at the Asian Games in 1951, which was the first of four consecutive gold medals in the quadrennial event through 1962, Loyzaga helped the team to a ninth-place finish at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

In 1954, Loyzaga powered the Philippines in the FIBA World Championships held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the Filipinos tallied a a 5-2 record and captured a bronze medal – still the best finish by any Asian country to date.

Loyzaga averaged 16.4 points, the third-best mark in the tournament, and earned a spot in the All-Tournament Team honors, the only time a Filipino was named to the prestigious list.

He also led the country to an improved seventh-place standing in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where he saw future Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell play for the Americans.

Loyzaga also was one of the huge contributors to the Philippines’ gold-medal campaign in the 1960 Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championship.

In 1963, although hampered by an injury, his presence was merely enough to help lead the Filipinos to another ABC gold medal against host Republic of China (now Chinese Taipei).

He was supposed to have his swan song before a supportive home crowd as the Philippines was chosen to host the 1963 FIBA World Championships, but geopolitics got in the way when then President Diosdado Macapagal refused to allow players from communist bloc countries to enter the Philippines.

The Philippines was suspended as a result and hosting duties revoked.

In his retirement, Loyzaga was described to have played a very integral role, which today is referred to as a point-center, where a player would stay on top of the key and find cutting teammates for the high pick-and-roll or hit the occasional jumper.

Coaching career

After retiring as a player, Loyzaga dabbled on the bench as a coach in the MICAA and the UAAP for the UST Glowing Goldies.

He then left UST to lead the Philippines to another ABC Championship in 1967, this time as shot caller, where he pulled all the stops in leading the so-called “Dirty Dozen” to emerge victorious against host Korea in a revenge win from two years back.

He also coached in the MICAA’s professional successor, the PBA, where he mentored U-Tex and Tanduay.

Later life and honors

Loyzaga was elected as councilor in Manila, then took a job at the airport, before immigrating to Australia.

Following his massive stroke in 2011, which left him on a wheelchair and unable to speak, he opted to return to the Philippines.

For his contributions to the development of Philippine basketball, he was named to the initial batch of inductees in the National Basketball Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc in 1999 and the Philippine Sports Commission’s Hall of Fame in 2010.

The Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA), the oldest media organization in the country, also honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

Loyzaga died on January 27, 2016, aged 85, leaving behind widow Vicky; sons Chito and Joey, who both played in the PBA; and daughters Bing and Teresa, both actresses.

After his death, Loyzaga had his No. 14 jersey retired by San Beda, and given the inaugural Olympism award by the PSA and the Philippine Olympic Committee in 2016.

He, along with the members of the 1954 FIBA World Championship team, are also honored in a Valenzuela City basketball court. —

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