ON the same day that Gilas Pilipinas was drawn in perhaps one of the two strongest groups in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, we received the distressing news that the greatest basketball player of all time to wear our country’s colors with pride and distinction – “The Big Difference” Caloy Loyzaga had passed away at the Cardinal Santos Memorial Hospital.
Caloy had always supported the Gilas Pilipinas national team and indeed the Gilas concept and provided the much-needed inspiration to a team that was intensely committed to redeeming our country’s stature and respect in the international basketball community.
Indeed, it was Loyzaga who made the big difference in motivating the Gilas Pilipinas team towin a slot in the FIBA World Cup in Spain after finishing second to Iran in the Fiba Asia Championships in Manila, playing without naturalized center Marcus Douthit, who could have made a difference against Iran’s awesome center Haddadi.
If anything, Caloy Loyzaga proved that height was not necessarily might in basketball as he was just under 6’4” in height, but more than held his own against the much bigger Americans and Brazilians in the 1954 World Championships in Brazil, where Caloy led the Philippines to a bronze-medal finish, which was the highest by any Asian team in the Fiba World Championships.
His average of over 16.4 points a game earned Caloy a place in the World Championship All-Star Five, which was an honor richly deserved both for him and our country.
Loyzaga was an unbelievably talented player, who used his innate skills to take on bigger men and get the better of them.
We can only fervently hope that among our present Gilas Pilipinas squad that will compete in the FIBA qualifying tournament in Manila, we will discover players with the same courage, skill and fierce competitive spirit that Loyzaga displayed when he donned our country’s colors in The World Championships, the Asian Championships and other major international tournaments.
Not only was Caloy a truly great player, he was a dedicated husband and father and a glowing example of the very best in the Filipino.
We grieve over his passing and hope that his death will inspire our Gilas Pilipinas team to overcome the odds just like Caloy Loyzaga did in 1954 and lead us to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games later this year.