27 January 2016

RIP to "The BIG Difference"

The BIG Difference
Philippine basketball legend Carlos "The Big Difference" Loyzaga has passed away on 27 January 2016. He was 85.

The two-time Olympian was regarded as arguably the best Filipino basketball player of all time. He is still the only Asian player to make it to the Mythical Team of the world championships, having achieved the feat when he led the national team to a third-place finish in the 1954 world championships.

Loyzaga actually helped the country become one of the best in the world at the time, winning four consecutive Asian Games gold medals (1951, 1954, 1958, 1962) and two consecutive FIBA Asia Championships (1960, 1963).

His finest moment was at the 1954 FIBA World Championship where he led the Philippines to a Bronze finish. It was the best finish by an Asian country and the Philippines have remained the only Asian medalist in the tournament. He finished as one of the tournament’s leading scorer with a 16.4 points-per-game average and was named in the tournament's All-Star selection.

Fondly called "caloy" by his close friends, Loyzaga learned to play basketball in the neighborhood TERVALAC (Teresa Valenzuela Athletic Club) basketball courts in Teresa Street, Santa Mesa, Manila. It was in the very same TERVALAC court where he was discovered by Gabby Fajardo, one of the country's leading coaches of the time. Fajardo saw promise in Loyzaga and offered to train Loyzaga for his junior PRATRA (Philippine Relief and Trade Rehabilitation Administration) team.

After high-school, Loyzaga wanted to enroll at Letran, but backed out at the last minute when the coach gave him a cold shoulder. He was about to enroll at the University of Santo Tomas, but this also did not materialize after Fely Fajardo (older brother of Gabby), coach of the San Beda Red Lions, recruited him.

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, San Beda retired the Zamora Trophy by winning the championships three times in 1951, 1952 and 1955.

Loyzaga joined the fabled YCO Painters in 1954 after powering PRATRA, and its successor team, PRISCO (Price Stabilization Corporation), to the National Open championship in 1950 and 1953, respectively.

He helped the Painters achieve a 49-game winning streak from 1954 to 1956, including several MICAA titles and ten straight National Open titles. Loyzaga took over as the Painter’s head coach after retiring in 1964.

Loyzaga also ventured into coaching when he steered the Philippine men's basketball team that won the 1967 ABC Championship (now known as the FIBA Asia Championship). In the Philippine Basketball Association, he coached U/Tex (1975-1976) and Tanduay (1977-1979).

He later retired from coaching and settled in Australia. However, Loyzaga returned to the Philippines in 2013 after suffering a massive stroke.

He was survived by his wife, Vicky Cuerva; four children: Chito, Joey, Bing, Teressa Loyzaga and his grand children.

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