When the Golden State Warriors released their summer league roster, followers of their G League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, probably recognized a couple of names on the team.
There was Alen Smailagic, who opted to spend a year in the G League before entering the NBA draft, and then there was Juan Toscano-Anderson.
Toscano-Anderson may have been a rookie in the G League this season, but he’s carved out a path for himself in professional basketball long before this. After staring at Castro Valley High School in the Bay Area, he spent four years at Marquette.
He went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft, and he began his professional basketball career in a bit of a different place. While many players that don’t initially reach the NBA may opt to go overseas to Europe, Toscano-Anderson went south of the border to play professionally in Mexico.
”It’s cool, there’s a lot of talent there. It doesn’t get the respect I feel like it deserves yet,” Toscano-Anderson told Ridiculous Upside. “But it’s a growing league and I feel like the respect will come over time. It’s not as much talent as here obviously, but it’s cool, it’s fun, I’m Mexican so it’s a good experience for sure.”
While playing in Mexico, he established himself as a capable double-digit scorer, as well as a player who can also do a little bit of everything on the court. He also spent some time playing in Venezuela and Argentina.
During that time, he also received the honor of being selected to play for the Mexican National Team in international competition. The team also includes Gustavo Ayon and Jorge Gutierrez, both of whom have had stints in the NBA.
Toscano-Anderson was on the team last summer when they beat Team USA in a FIBA qualifying game. For him, being able to represent his country is one of the major highlights of his basketball career thus far.
”It’s inexplicable, being the face of the sport for a country is really cool. In a social aspect, in a responsibility aspect, it’s everything that comes with it,” Toscano-Anderson said. “I won’t take it for granted and it’s definitely one of the best experiences I’ve gotten to experience thus far in my life. I don’t know what words to use to describe it, but it’s cool.”
Back in December, the NBA’s commissioner Adam Silver announced plans to establish a G League team in Mexico within the next year or so. The team would not be affiliated with an NBA franchise. The NBA has begun to play regular-season games in Mexico, and have plans to continue to market south of the border.
According to Toscano-Anderson, the basketball scene in Mexico is a lot more popular than what people might expect. It’s grown tremendously, and there’s a definite fan market to tap into.
“I think it’s pretty cool, Mexico has a lot of people. The sport is growing there, Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, very diverse, I think it would be really cool,” Toscano-Anderson said. “I don’t see why not. Expanding the NBA’s market, expand outside of the borders, I think it has so many pros to come with it. We’ll see how it works out.”
Although Toscano-Anderson has spent most of his pro career in Mexico, when this season approached, he decided to try something a little different than what he’s been used to. He returned stateside and went back to his Bay Area roots when he attended a tryout for the Santa Cruz Warriors.
He ended up impressing the team brass during his workouts enough that they traded away Terrence Jones to the Erie Bayhawks to open up a roster spot for him. Jones is a veteran with multiple years of NBA experience and has been one of the top players in the G League.
Toscano-Anderson’s ultimate goal is to play in the NBA, and he feels as if the G League is one step closer to achieving that.
“There’s a lot of talent. It’s fun, it’s the closest thing to the NBA,” Toscano-Anderson said. “As for myself, my ultimate goal is making it to the NBA. For anybody else, if that’s your goal then why not here? I feel like everybody who has dreams or aspirations of making the NBA should give it a try.”
He emerged this season as one of the main glue guys for Santa Cruz. Throughout the season, they established themselves as one of the elite teams in the G League, and Toscano-Anderson was a big part of that.
He does whatever the team needs him to do, especially the little things that don’t always show up in a box score. They might need him to get a defensive stop, to make a proper switch on a screen, or to disrupt a team’s offense with his length. Defense is a big part of his game and something he takes pride in.
He’s confident that what he’s brought on the court to Santa Cruz can translate to the next level should an NBA team come calling.
”I’m aware of who I am, that’s first and foremost. I’m one of those guys who’s low maintenance, whatever a team wants me to do, I’ll do. I feel like my best attributes are defending, I can defend multiple positions, I can rebound at a high level. Obviously, I feel like my best basketball days are ahead of me,” Toscano-Anderson said. “I’ll continue to work and add to my bag of tricks so I’m not a one-trick pony. But just being an energy guy, a good teammate, just trying to come in and change the tide if the team needs that. Hopefully one day I do get that opportunity.”