Oakland's Juan Toscano aims to inspire in push to make Warriors roster


Oakland's Juan Toscano aims to inspire in push to make Warriors roster

SAN FRANCISCO -- Warriors training camp invitee Juan Toscano walked along a white backdrop inside Golden State's practice facility during Monday's media day just like any other player. Like his new teammates, Toscano participated in a series of poses and mock dunks as photographers snapped photos. Towards the end of his session, a team staffer handed Toscano a Mexican flag, giving a special symbolism to the occasion. 

Toscano currently is one of two players of Mexican descent in NBA training camps this fall. An East Oakland native, many of Golden State's best and worst moments happened within walking distance of his immigrant grandfather's home.

Now, after an impressive career in Latin America, the 26-year-old is looking to make good on his NBA dream. 

"I was really nervous. I ain't going to lie," he admitted. "It felt surreal, just ... being in this gym, being in these facilities, seeing all these banners up."

The number 95 that rested underneath Toscano's Mexican flag Monday holds a special meaning for the forward. Four decades ago, Toscano's grandfather immigrated from Michoacán and bought a house on 95th and A Street, tucked in the heart of East Oakland's Elmhurst neighborhood.

Though mixed with African descent, he visited Mexico once when he was six, celebrated Mexican holidays and regularly spoke Spanish growing up. However, in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, Toscano lived a double life of sorts. 

"I just gravitated towards African-American culture," Toscano said. "All my friends are African American. So it was just like, I was Mexican at home, but in the streets or at school I was -- I am half black but that's the music; I listen to hip-hop, to black culture, or African-American culture or urban culture. At home we spoke Spanish, we eat Mexican food, celebrate Mexican holidays. I had both growing up, though." 

His life's duality manifested in the evolution of his name. As a prep star at Castro Valley High School, he went by Juan Anderson, lead the Trojans to a 30-2 record and a CIF NorCal Championship berth his senior year, averaging 16.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He kept the name at Marquette, where he was a three-year starter with the Eagles. 

"I just always went with Juan Anderson," Toscano said. "I guess cause it was just simpler, and I guess more Americanized. ... On my birth certificate, it's always been Toscano-Anderson. You look in the school book, like the first day of school when they call, they always call Juan Toscano-Anderson." 

Following his college career, it was his Mexican lineage that saved his basketball life. After four years in Marquette, Toscano had zero offers overseas, let alone from the NBA in 2015 after his senior year. Then, on a trip to Charlotte to see his former coach Buzz Williams, he got a call from Mexican national team officials. 

Toscano flew to Mexico City just hours after returning home from Charlotte. By the end of the summer, Toscano was playing in 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, competing against NBA talent like Andrew Wiggins, J.J. Barea and Luis Scola. In a semi-final loss to Argentina, he tallied 10 points, two rebounds and two assists. Offers started pouring in soon after, causing another name change.  

"When I went to Mexico and when I got my passport, I had to play with Toscano because that's how I got my passport," he said. "Toscano was my Mexican name, so that's just what I use. That's what I put on my jersey. And I'm going to start in my career. So everybody in regards to the basketball world, everybody outside of the United States, know me as Juan Toscano." 

Stints in Argentina and Venezuela soon followed. But he flourished in Mexico, leading Fuerza Regia de Monterrey -- a squad in Mexico's top league --to the postseason the last two years. In 2018, he earned MVP honors, averaging 14.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists in 29.8 minutes per game. By 25, he was one of the top players in the league, making six figures and becoming one of the faces of Mexico's basketball scene. 

"They showed me so much love," Toscano said. "They were always offering to cook food for me, invited me over to eat, give me rides places. I didn't have a car out there and stuff, just everything man. They're real good people.

"I'm in airports, like I go on vacation and Cancun and Cabo all the time. So it was like when I was traveling through the airport, and it's not like two or three people stopping me to take pictures. Like, TSA started asking me to take pictures."

All the while, the NBA still remained a dream. As Toscano became a cultural figure in Mexico, he was on the phone with Santa Cruz Warrior Jabari Brown, his longtime friend.

As kids, Brown and Toscano dominated the Bay Area prep scene. Years later, Brown was encouraging his friend to keep his NBA aspirations alive.

Brown was also on another line with Santa Cruz Warriors assistant general manager Ryan Atkinson, who ultimately invited Toscano to a local tryout at the Warriors' former practice facility atop the Oakland Marriott last year. Alongside former Division I standouts, it was Toscano who stood out. Not heralded as a scorer, he was noticed for his energy. 

"I remember walking past and I'm looking," said Aaron Miles, current Warriors assistant and former Santa Cruz Warriors coach. "And I just hear somebody say, "I got ball!, I got ball! No, no, you go over there, and you sitting back!" and I'm like, 'man, okay. I like that.' I couldn't tell if he could shoot or not, but that stood out to me."

While Toscano impressed, he still didn't have a guaranteed spot entering training camp. Worse, he was forgoing six-figure deals in Mexico for a long shot to make Santa Cruz's roster. 

"I remember the first time we talked to him, me and [the Santa Cruz Warriors general manager] Kent [Lacob], we sat down, we talked to them and let them know, listen, ain't nothing promised here," Mile said. "We know you've got option up in Mexico to do things, but ain't nothing promised. And he said, 'Listen, I ain't ask for no handouts.'

"That was a lot of money to turn down. But like [Jabari] said, 'What do you have to lose?' I'm a local there. I have a passport, Mexican passport, so I can always go back. Thank God they love me there. They show me a lot of love. So they would always accept me with open arms. But like I said, man, sometimes you got to bet on yourself." 

Toscano made the team, going from benchwarmer to full-time starter by the end of the season, averaging 7.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. His performance led to a Summer League invite, where his energy caught the eye of the Golden State Warriors and a training-camp invite soon followed. 

[RELATED: Warriors ready for wedding day at new Chase Center]

Growing up in East Oakland, Toscano saw Golden State's evolution from laughingstock to champs. He was in middle school when the "We Believe" Warriors shocked the NBA, and he finished college just as the team ended its 40-year championship drought.

Now, though a long shot to make the roster, he hopes he can be an inspiration to those watching him on the other side of the Bay. 

"I just want to continue to raise the bar for my people, he said. "My people here in Oakland, my people in the Bay area, and the whole country that's behind me. So is it pressure? Yes and no. Maybe I've placed that pressure on myself, but its good pressure, man.

"What's the worst that could happen, that they send me back to Santa Cruz? OK then, I'll keep working, one day hopefully they have a spot in this league. And if not, then it just wasn't meant for me. But if I can inspire one kid or two kids, or inspire multiple kids there, I've done my job. So that gives me a lot of satisfaction in just inspiring people and seeing kids look up to me, and I just want to continue to embrace that role."

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred 'very concerned' over A's stadium lawsuit

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred 'very concerned' over A's stadium lawsuit

Major League Baseball has its eyes on the city of Oakland's lawsuit against Alameda County, and the suit could affect MLB's support of the A's building a stadium in the city. 

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser on Wednesday before the A's 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Game that he's "very concerned" about the lawsuit.

“I think [A’s president] Dave Kaval and John Fisher and the rest of the A’s organization have made a huge investment to try to get a stadium done here," Manfred told The Chronicle, "and to have a city entity turn around and litigate against progress is upsetting.”

The city of Oakland sued Alameda County on Friday to prevent the county from selling its share of the Coliseum site to the A's, which the county Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to do in April. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesh set a Nov. 14 hearing on the lawsuit Tuesday, and he issued a temporary restraining order on the sale.

The A's reportedly agreed to purchase the county's portion for $85 million, and The Chronicle's Phil Matier wrote Wednesday that there are "rumblings that the $85 million the A's are offering ... is far below market value." The city of Oakland is worried that selling to the A's "won't include enough benefits for the surrounding community," according to Matier. 

In the suit, the city argues the county violated the Surplus Land Act, which calls for extra land owned by public entities to first be considered for public housing. The city said the county did not negotiate "in good faith" for the required 90 days, and instead began working on a deal with the A's.

“The Coliseum properties are Oakland’s largest public land parcel, and it is imperative that the properties are developed first and foremost for the benefit of the people of Oakland and Alameda County,” Oakland city attorney Barbara Parker told The Chronicle on Tuesday. “The city has declared its commitment to develop the Coliseum properties to achieve their highest and best use for the public good.”

[RELATED: Full-throated A's fans pack Coliseum during wild-card loss]

Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf said the city attorney filed the lawsuit on the city council's orders, and she told The Chronicle she thought the lawsuit should be suspended. Manfred told the newspaper that he met with Schaaf and city council president Rebecca Kaplan on Wednesday.

“I hope the city will come forward and be more aggressive about moving the process forward," Manfred said. "The mayor and president Kaplan expressed strong support for keeping the A’s here in my meeting with them, and I tried to make clear from them that we need more than verbal support for the process.”

The A's currently are trying to build a new ballpark at Howard Terminal. Manfred told The Chronicle that he told Schaaf the lawsuit's "timing was such that some people could read it that maybe it is time for us to consider other alternatives." Manfred added later that he is "hopeful" the A's future is in Oakland.

Steph Curry's thoughts on Chase Center after first look at Warriors' new arena


Steph Curry's thoughts on Chase Center after first look at Warriors' new arena

SAN FRANCISCO -- Stephen Curry had been prepping for the Warriors' move across the Bay, to Chase Center in San Francisco.

Now, after playing 10 years in Oakland, he finally got to see his new office in person.

"Today is where it became real," Curry said Wednesday afternoon.

Curry -- who was on the premises for a JP Morgan Chase event -- spoke to about 250 girls to encourage physical fitness. Prior to that ceremony, Curry toured the $1 billion Chase Center, which officially opened Tuesday.

During Curry's first 10 NBA seasons, the Warriors practiced in downtown Oakland and played their home games 11 miles away at Oracle Arena. At Chase Center, the team will have a practice facility attached, and team employees will work out of it.

While new to arena change, Curry said he's excited about it.

"I think, for me, it's different just because I've never had that experience," Curry said. "I've seen other arenas -- growing up in Charlotte, they had that -- and that was kind of my first real experience with it, where you have one locker room, practice court, familiar setting no matter what day it is, and go over to the arena. So hopefully it will help expedite the overall comfort level of the transition." 

As for the ceremony, it was just the latest girl-empowerment-focused appearance for Curry. Last month, he hosted his second annual all-girls camp at the Warriors' facility in Oakland. Five months ago, after 9-year-old Riley Morrison pointed out that Curry's Under Armour shoe line didn't include girls' sizing, the Warriors point guard released a girl's-only colorway of his Curry 6 with the phrases “Be Fearless,” “Girl Power,” “Girls Hoop Too” and “Rock The Currys" inscribed in the sock liners.

[RELATED: Steph, Ayesha Curry team with PGA REACH for golf tournament

On Wednesday, Curry -- in conjunction with Girls Inc -- surprised more than 250 female students from across the Bay Area on Chase Center's concourse, speaking to them about the importance of physical fitness before participating in a brief workout with the students.

"I picked up some gems tonight," Curry said. "How every day you [can] set a vision of what you want to do. As a parent, you can do that. As a kid, you can do that. So, it's all kind of a collective effort."