AS the much-celebrated Gilas Pilipinas makes a triumphant return to the World Basketball Championships (now FIBA World Cup), it is but fitting that we pay tribute to the men who helped shape one of the most storied teams in Asia in the last 100 years.
Considered one of Asia's sports pioneers, the Philippine Islands dominated the Far Eastern Games from 1913 to 1934, winning all but one of the 10 basketball gold medals contested before World War II broke out.
This picture was from the collection of Vicente Avena (standing second from right), who was also a member of the national volleyball team. He was known as 'Kaliwete Killer' because of the way he killed the ball. (Legend has it that the late great Avena was the originator of the spike, which used to be referred to by the Americans as the Filipino Bomb.)
The 5-foot-10 leaper was so good he outjumped and out-quicked his taller opponents with his impeccable timing during jumpball situations. (It was key at that time as each field goal during that era resulted in a jumpball.)
Standing (second from left) is Jovito Gonzales, who played in six editions of the Far Eastern Games including the inaugural staging in 1913 at the Manila Carnival Grounds (same spot where the Rizal Memorial now stands).
Seated at right, first row row was the scoring legend Lou Salvador, who held the Far Eastern Games single game scoring record of 116 points which he unloaded versus China in 1923 as the Philippines regained its Asian crown after losing it in 1921.
Here now are the pioneers of Philippine basketball. Truly a treasure.