PHILIPPINE basketball legend Caloy Loyzaga made a surprise visit to the Gilas Pilipinas dugout on Friday evening and gave inspirational messages before the national team played Kazakhstan in a tune-up game at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Loyzaga, still the only Asian player to be included in the Mythical Five of the World Basketball Championship, took time off to personally meet the members of the team and its entire coaching staff, with his son and former PBA player Chito speaking on his behalf.
'The Big Difference' has suffered a stroke a few years ago and has difficulty speaking.
The legendary cager, who’s turning 83 next month, knows exactly what it is like to play in a big event such as the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship which reels off next week, having been at the forefront of several Philippine campaigns in international tournaments.
Loyzaga also served as assistant coach to the late Tito Eduque in the last all-Filipino team to win the Asian title when the country last hosted the tournament in 1973.
Loyzaga encouraged the Gilas team to take advantage of the privilege of playing before basketball-loving Filipino fans.
More importantly, Loyzaga emphasized the importance of playing for flag and country.
“At the end of the day, take pride in playing for flag and playing for the Philippines and wearing the flag in their shirts,” Chito said when asked about what transpired during the pregame huddle.
Chito Loyzaga, current commissioner of the UAAP basketball competitions, said his father also stressed the need of playing as a team in front of the home crowd.
“They should take advantage of playing in front of the home crowd. Ang international game rin kasi, iba sa local game kaya ang advantage nila, hindi na sila mag-a-adjust sa mga bagay-bagay,” said Chito.
After the pep talk, Loyzaga stayed on to watch the Philippine-Kazakhstan match.