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2x Asian Games champ Rafael Hechanova passes away

Rafael Hechanova. POA (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Rafael Hechanova, one of Philippine basketball's pioneering top defenders, passed away on Thursday.

Prior to his death, he was the oldest living Filipino Olympian at the age of 93.

Hechanova played for the Philippine team in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, in which the team finished in a tie for ninth place.

"Paing", as friends would call him, then helped the Nationals take the gold in the inaugural Asian Games in Tehran in 1951 and in the second edition in Manila in 1954.

Despite being just 5-feet-11, the University of Santo Tomas alumnus was known for his shot-blocking skills at a time when blocks were not part of basketball stat lines, which was remarkable for someone playing the guard position.

Hechanova was part of the then Glowing Goldies squad that won the UAAP, National Inter-Collegiate, and National Senior titles, earning him Mr. Basketball honors by the Philippine Sportswriters Association that year.

He was actually considered for the bronze medal-winning Philippine team to the 1954 FIBA World Cup, but the licensed architect, who just passed the board exam that time, retired from basketball and went full-time with his new career.

Hechanova still got to play for the fabled YCO franchise in MICAA.

Hechanova would make a return to the game in a front-office role when Concepcion-Carrier entered MICAA in 1971 and eventually became the league's president.

When the club joined eight other franchises in forming the PBA in 1975, he became the inaugural board of governors' second vice president.

The 2000 National Basketball Hall of Fame inductee helped found the Philippine Olympians Association in 2002, where he served as chairman.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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