THE great Carlos Loyzaga had countless memorable moments in his legendary basketball career.
But there’s nothing that he can be any prouder than seeing one of his basketball-playing sons carrying the great family name in the same tournament and in the same place where he once led the country to glory.
Joey Loyzaga was chosen as part of the 1982 Philippine men’s team that competed in the New Delhi Asian Games - 31 years after since his legendary father steered the Filipinos to the gold medal in the inaugural staging of the meet also held in Indian capital.
“Laking tuwa ng old man (dad) ko when I was chosen to represent our country,” recalled the younger Loyzaga, now based in Sydney, Australia.
Older brother Chito also suited up in the Asiad eight years later (1990) in Beijing as part of the first ever all-pro Philippine squad that bagged the silver behind host and champion China.
But the New Delhi Asiad proved to be an emotional one for the Loyzaga patriarch as it was in the same Indian capital that he and the rest of the national team planted the seed of Filipino supremacy in the quadrennial event.
“Dad first played in the Asian Games in 1951 which was also held in New Delhi. Of course, champion ang Pinas,” said Joey, 58.
The inaugural Asiad (precursor to the Far Eastern Games) was originally scheduled in 1950, but was deferred a year later due to delays in preparations by the host, just five years after World War II.
Loyzaga led the Philippine side that also included the likes of Lauro Mumar, Francisco Calilan, Moro Lorenzo, Rafael Hechanova, among others.
The country won the Asiad’s first ever basketball gold undefeated.
The older Loyzaga would play in the next three editions of the Asiad where the country also won the gold, including the 1962 Games in Bangkok which proved to be his last stint in the meet.
“After Dad retired, hindi na nag-champion ang Pinas sa Asiad,” said Joey, who played for San Beda and Arellano University in college.
Joey got his shot at ending the gold drought three decades later as the youngest member of a team coached by Nat Canson.
Among his teammates were Willie Pearson, Onchie Dela Cruz, Federico ‘Bokyo’ Launchengco, Dante Gonzalgo, Sonny Cabatu, Jojo Villapando, Noni Robles, Rey Perez, Tem Gancayco, Jay Ramirez (brother of Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez), and Adonis Tierra (top deputy of Yeng Guiao at NLEX).
“We finished fourth place, with Korea winning the gold,” said Joey of the team’s stint in New Delhi, a Philippine campaign that was made memorable when Lydia De Vega won the 100-meter gold over Indian rival PT Usha to crown herself as ‘Asia’s sprint queen.’
A year later, the core of that same cage team represented the country in the Singapore Southeast Asian Games where it ran away with the gold medal.
Loyzaga said added to the squad were the likes of Samboy Lim, Hector Calma, Elmer Reyes, Romy Ang, Alfie Almario, and Teddy Alfarero, with Letran mentor Larry Albano taking over the coaching reins.
“That was many moons ago, when I was young, strong, and with lots of hair,” said Joey in between laughs.
The younger Loyzaga, who played for Gold Eagle, Ginebra San Miguel, Swift, Shell, and Alaska in 14 seasons in the PBA, initially tried out for the 1982 Philippine Youth team under the late coach Ron Jacobs, but failed to make the final cut.
But as one door closed, a window opened for him.
“That same year coach Nat got me for the Asian Games as the youngest member of the team,” said Loyzaga of Canson, the veteran coach who would also be his first PBA mentor with Gold Eagle.
While the outcome wasn’t exactly what the team aimed for, it nonetheless turned out to be a memorable one for Joey – the experience serving as one of the proudest moments in his father’s life.
“After 31 years, anak naman niya ang nakapag-represent and played sa Asian Games, kaya very happy si Dad,” Joey said in parting.