BIG FOOTPRINTS IN SUSUICO FAMILY

BIG FOOTPRINTS IN SUSUICO FAMILY

📅29 January 2013
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By Jesse Pinkston

Father and Son: Seve and Tony Susuico are part of Guam basketball lore. Seve has three silver medals and Tony has two gold medals from the South Pacific Games. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Father and Son: Seve and Tony Susuico are part of Guam basketball lore. Seve has three silver medals and Tony has two gold medals from the South Pacific Games. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

There aren’t many opportunities that a son gets the chance to repeat what his father has accomplished.  It takes years of hard work and dedication to live your dreams, let alone, duplicate what your father has set forth for you.

For Seve Susuico, although he didn’t necessarily follow in his father’s footsteps, he has excelled beyond many Guam athletes and traveled the world, just like his forebearer, Tony Susuico.  When the “Human Helicopter” is brought up, the older generation knows the name and meaning behind it – the hang time the elder Susuico had back in the days is legendary; likewise for Seve when his name is mentioned among today’s athletic generation.

Sixty-two-year-old Antonio “Tony” Salas Susuico was an amazing basketball player for Guam.  Hailing from Agat, his first basketball was actually a flat volleyball.

“My dad worked for the Navy and had an endless supply of masking tape, making the volleyball bigger and bigger.  The rim was a bicycle tire.  We had an outdoor basketball court right by a river, there was no gate and if you missed your shot you would sometimes have to chase your ball out to the ocean.  I learned early on to not miss my shot.”

Tony Susuico (No. 8) played above the rim most of his basketball life. A true hoops legend who once scored 113 points in a game and owner of two SPG gold medals. (courtesy photo)

Tony Susuico (No. 8) played above the rim most of his basketball life. A true hoops legend who once scored 113 points in a game and owns two SPG gold medals. (courtesy photo)

Tony was inspired in junior high because, just like Michael Jordan, he was cut from his basketball team.  “I worked through the summer.  I read an article from Sports Illustrated, the basic stuff, working on your grip with tennis balls, a 2×4 and duct tape.  If you didn’t have supplements then you used fresh vegetables and other things from the ranch.”

All the hard work paid off.  He became one of the most well-known athletes on Guam.  Upon graduating from GW in 1968, he had two choices: war or college.

“My coach at the time made arrangements for me to go to Seattle City College.  What a shocking experience!  In 1968, the Black Panthers (an African-American revolutionary socialist organization) shut down our school the first week we were there for about two weeks.  I went from playing in Paseo to playing against the Washington Huskies.  I never played in front of more than 300 people and suddenly in front of 6-7 thousand people.  My first day there, I saw four guys that were lining up to drink water and they were all 6’5”-6’6” that were guards.”  Despite his 6’1” build, Tony ended up being the rebounding, scoring and blocked shot leader for his team.

“I came back [to Guam] in 1971 for my first South Pacific Games experience in Tahiti.  We almost medaled.  There were only six of us, all very young.  We made a pact then to work as hard as we can for when the Games come to Guam.  In 1975, I had a duel role; I was captain of the basketball team and a member of the SPG Commission.  It was pretty hectic and nobody thought we had a chance to win.  American Samoa was favored to win the gold.  Their starting five all had college level experience.  Somehow we were blessed with the chemistry of a team that stuck together through thick and thin.  Politics was not in the way and you earned your spot on the team.  It was the highlight of the Games when we won gold over American Samoa.”

Susuico was part of the historic 1975 gold medal team that beat the mighty American Samoans in front of a packed home crowd at the GW Gym. (courtesy photo)

Susuico was part of the historic 1975 gold medal team that beat the mighty American Samoans in front of a packed home crowd at the GW Gym. (courtesy photo)

In 1979 the team traveled to Fiji and walked away as champions once more, making history. “We established something that still stands in the record book, back-to-back consecutive champion gold medalists.”  Tony finished his career with two gold medals and a fourth place finish at SPG.

His most memorable moment was, “aside from winning the gold medal, it was playing my first game in the states.  It was me, coming from Guam and experiencing the big world out there and even my first time on an airplane.”

Tony also won the Millennium Athlete Award presented in 2000 by the Governor.  He averaged 42 points a game in the all-island village league in 1973. That same year, Tony scored 113 points against the Sinajana team.  He also coached the national team for a few years and is itching to get back in the game.  Perhaps his son, Seve, added to that factor.

Named after professional golfer Seve Ballesteros, Seve was destined to hit the links.  “He was beating all these guys in golf and after he sprung up [in height] he stopped playing.  Influenced from his friends, he started playing basketball and football.  He’s a natural athlete,” his dad said.

Seve started playing basketball when he was 12 and was heavily involved in golf prior to that.  “Nobody watched golf.  You like to play sports that people watch,” the 2003 graduate from Guam Adventist Academy said.

Seve has been fortunate to travel from Australia to Greece and more, thanks to basketball and being a part of the national team. The two-time high school MVP (’02-’03) said,  “dad was my inspiration although I’ve never seen him actually play a basketball game.  He never pressured me, which was good and bad.  So now he brags that he has two gold medals, but I have three silvers.”

Seve is still in the shadows of his father Tony - until he wins gold. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Seve is still in the shadows of his father Tony – until he wins gold. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Those three silvers are from Fiji 2003, Samoa 2007 and New Caledonia 2011 Pacific Games.  Seve played center and power forward.  He is still on the national team and plans to play for as long as his body allows or, “until we get that elusive GOLD.”  For Guam to get the gold, Seve thinks that they could use “a little more height and support from either the community or the government.  If we had a little less non-basketball things to worry about, like other countries, we could devote that much more time to training and getting prepared.”

According to Tony, “I feel one day that Guam is going to win.  It is just a matter of the chemistry of the guys playing together as a unit.  I feel in my heart that there is a missing element in the unification of the team.  The players now, of course, because of the commitments they have, it’s difficult to put in 100%.  Unfortunately, someone has to step up.  The countries supporting their athletes are the ones dominating.”  Only time will tell.

For the record, the Susuico’s have never challenged each other to a one-on-one game, and if they did, Tony exclaims, “Oh, I’m gonna school him”!

NOTES: Tony has shot hoops with Jimmy Hendrix, met Bruce Lee, Iron Butterfly, Young Rascals and many others… Tony, Jr. – Seve’s older brother – was an all-island basketball player for Oceanview. Unlike his dad and baby brother, Tony. Jr. played guard and could shoot the lights out from outside.

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