After a long, winding, and non-traditional route, Juan Toscano-Anderson played his first minutes on the NBA hardwood — in regular season action. It was not only a momentous occasion in his basketball career, but a culmination of events that are almost hard to believe.
A native of Oakland, Toscano-Anderson is uniquely tied to the Golden State Warriors. In elementary school, he was encouraged to play basketball by his former teacher Wilhelmina Attles, wife of Warriors legend and Hall of Famer Al Attles. As a youth, Toscano-Anderson was a Warriors Basketball Camp participant, officially becoming the first Golden State Warriors player to have participated in the franchise’s youth basketball program. Furthermore, in 2018, Toscano-Anderson joined the G-League with the Santa Cruz Warriors, where he played for the club for two seasons.
In other words, Toscano-Anderson made his NBA debut for a team that has been a continual thread throughout his life. “Fell in love with it”
Toscano-Anderson was born and raised in East Oakland. He joined the Oakland Rebels AAU team (now known as Team Lillard), and played for Castro Valley High School. So needless to say, basketball and the Bay Area are big parts of his life.
But does that mean he was a Warriors fan growing up?
“I’ve always been a Warriors fan. Just being from Oakland, I feel like it’s embedded in me,” he said in his Warriors Player Profile.
Despite being a fan though, Toscano-Anderson did not play basketball early in life. But all it took was a little encouragement from the wife of a Warriors’ Hall of Famer to turn him onto the sport.
“I started playing basketball in third grade. Alvin Attles’ wife — she was my third grade teacher and I was playing soccer prior to that — put me into a Warriors Camp. That’s what kind of jump started me playing basketball. Fell in love with it,” said Toscano-Anderson.
“I still remember that camp like it was last week… Warriors Camp meant a lot. It changed my life, it was really exciting. That was my first basketball camp, it’s propelled me to where I am today.”
Good Bye, Bay Area. Or not.
The path from Warriors Basketball Camp to the NBA for Toscano-Anderson was far from seamless. After being scouted and recruited, he wound up playing at Marquette University where his injuries cost him playing time through his four years.
So much so, Toscano-Anderson went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft, and not for any lack of talent, but by his own admission he did not even submit his name for the draft.
But his desire to play basketball continued, which led him to play in Mexico for four seasons and play for the Mexican national basketball team.
One of those games included a USA-Mexico match. Although the American team was full of G League players, Mexico came out on top. To Toscano-Anderson, this meant that he too could compete against the talent in the G League.
And where else would he find out if he could play against the best than back home in the Bay Area? Toscano-Anderson joined the 2018-19 training camp roster of the Santa Cruz Warriors, G League affiliate of Golden State, as a local tryout player.
It was quite the homecoming. He performed so well that it prompted a last-minute trade of six-year NBA veteran Terrence Jones in order to make a roster spot for Toscano-Anderson.
Santa Cruz’ play-by-play announcer Kevin Dana noticed what he brought to the team early-on.
“He immediately makes an impact as an energy dude off the bench, grabbing every offensive rebound in sight,” Dana said as he analyzed the forward.
After questioning his abilities, it is only fitting that Oakland native Toscano-Anderson found his way into the NBA by coming back to the Bay Area.
“Playing in Santa Cruz was really cool… also being back home, that was really cool,” said Toscano-Anderson.
Not a bad story for someone who Dana says is “such a great dude.”
Welcome to the Dubs
Toscano-Anderson’s play at Santa Cruz was so strong in the 2018-19 season, the Warriors wanted to see more.
Keen members of Dub Nation likely saw a lot of Toscano-Anderson while they watched this past NBA Summer League as he played on both of the Dubs’ summer squads in the California Classic and Las Vegas Summer League.
He impressed enough that he remained with the team up through the Dubs’ preseason games, being amongst the first players to grace the courts at Chase Center.
But before he could play in a preseason game, Toscano-Anderson had to complete what has become a team tradition at the annual Open Practice: he had to sing.
During the team’s first public event at the newly opened Chase Center he had to take the mic and perform for the fans in attendance. Leave it to Toscano-Anderson to make his connection to the Bay Area known through his song of choice: “Thizzle Dance” by the late East Bay rapper Mac Dre. It was during the early October matchups that Toscano-Anderson made another nod to his upbringing as he changed his jersey number to 95.
Though it is uncommon for NBA players to wear numbers that high, the ’95’ carried significant meaning for him: Toscano-Anderson’s grandfather emigrated to Oakland from Mexico and bought house on 95th Avenue and A Street in East Oakland.
Keeping that connection to his roots in the East Bay are important to him, too, as Toscano-Anderson understands that his story can serve to benefit others.
“For kids that are from Oakland, they can identify with me.”
Toscano-Anderson continued: “It’s not like they’re looking at the Kobe Bryants or the LeBron James’. Seeing somebody from Oakland, it probably gives them a little more inspiration and a little more motivation like ‘this guy’s where I’m from, he grew up in the same neighborhood I grew up in.’”
Now living this childhood dream, Toscano-Anderson returned to Chase Center not as someone on the preseason roster contending for a spot, but as a Golden State Warrior. He became the first Warriors Basketball Camp alumni to play for the Dubs, and the third product of the camps to play in the NBA.
“Now that I have this opportunity to play for the Warriors what I play to do is just be me: be a great teammate, be the hardest playing guy on the floor, whatever it takes to win. I’m all about winning. I just want to contribute to my team’s success,” he said.
“I never thought in a million years I’d be playing for the Warriors, let alone in the NBA, but it’s exciting for myself, for my family, for my friends, and for the people of Oakland.”