Juan Toscano, Is a New Stage Marked for Mexico in the NBA?

After the title won by the Aztec power forward as part of the Golden State Warriors squad, the first for the Central American nation in this competition, it is necessary to evaluate the growth that this sport can have in Mexico.

Juan Toscano with the flag of Mexico

Photo: TW-Thompson Scribe

LatinAmerican Post | Onofre Zambrano

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Leer en español: Juan Toscano ¿se marca una nueva etapa para México en la NBA?

The history of Mexico is not the most extensive and successful in terms of NBA basketball, since to date only five players born in this country have played in the best basketball in the world, and only one, Juan Toscano with the Golden State Warriors, has been crowned champion, a fact that, however, can positively change the aforementioned trend.

Toscano-Anderson has already made history by becoming the first Mexican to become NBA champion, despite not being used as much by coach Steve Kerr during the campaign. The Warriors earned their seventh ring, fourth between 2015 and 2022, a period in which they also played six finals.

The 29-year-old player who plays positions 3 and 4 on the court, was born in Oakland (California) and has just completed his second full season in the NBA, being his best campaign by having action in 70 regular-season games. In addition, he also made history by being the first Mexican to participate in the All Star Game dunk contest.

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What is coming for Mexico in this sport?

It isn't easy to know, but the truth is that, for 10 years, basketball in this country has shown significant growth after the era of Horacio Llamas and Eduardo Nájera, the first NBA in this country. The team raised its competitive level, was runner-up in the pre-Olympic championship and has a good chance of winning a place in the specialty World Cup in 2023.

The emergence of pivot Gustavo Ayón in the NBA with the New Orleans Pelicans, Orlando Magic, Milwaukee Bucks, and Atlanta Hawks and later in the Spanish League with Real Madrid, was what put Mexico on the map of the best basketball in the world despite that Llamas and Nájera had already been there.

Basketball became more popular in this Central American nation as a result of Ayón's achievements and the growth of the national team, which generated greater promotion from the media, focused more on soccer and baseball, and it seems that the momentum was not will stop after what Toscano has achieved and the preparation carried out in silence by a boy named Gael Bonilla.

The future

Undoubtedly, Gael Bonilla is the biggest prospect that Mexican basketball has today . At the age of 14, he went to Spain with the intention of improving his game and three years later he began to see the results of his daily work. Bonilla debuted in the LEB Plata in Spain, the third category in the country, and currently plays for Barcelona, so it is very possible that we will see him in the NBA in a few years since at 19, his possibility of entering from the NCAA in the United States it is almost nil.

Former Mexican NBA player Eduardo Nájera, who is now a scout for the Dallas Mavs, told Sporting News about Bonilla: “He has the defensive and offensive tools. The representation and support that he has from us will also be important because that way he can get to the NBA and I think he could do it in the next two years”.

“Beyond where he grew up and his childhood was, the fact of making the sacrifice of going to Europe alone and without his parents, has built his character. Making that decision at an early age will make him mentally strong and will benefit his game”, closed the remembered shooting guard.

Historical Evolution

Mexico began its history in the NBA, as noted above, with Horacio Llamas Gray, a native of Sinaloa, who as a teenager entered the North American basketball system through Pima Community College and Gran Canyon University. From there came unsuccessful draft entries and training camp attendance. His big break came in February 1997 when he signed a 10-day contract with the Phoenix Suns. His final numbers in the best basketball in the world were 28 games, 58 points, 36 rebounds and 5 assists after 143 minutes played, for an average of five minutes per game.

The second is Eduardo Nájera, from Meoqui (Chihuahua) who in NBA matters has been the most successful of those born in this country since he came to play on the courts for 12 years. He was also the only pick in the draft (38th overall by the Houston Rockets in 2000), before being traded to the Dallas Mavs. Nájera started at 14 in the Dorados de Chihuahua, then played at the University of Oklahoma (1997-2000) and became one of the main stars. His time in the NBA was varied as he was part of the Mavs, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, and New Jersey Nets before retiring in the 2011-12 season with the Charlotte Bobcats. In his career, he averaged 18.1 minutes, 4.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.8 assists. He came to play 9 playoffs, although he never achieved the championship ring.

Gustavo Ayón was born in Zapotlán (Nayarit), a town on the eastern side of the Mexican Republic with less than a thousand inhabitants, in 2009 he migrated to Spain where he played with CB Illescas, the linked team of Fuenlabrada. In 2011 with Fuenlabrada of the ACB League, he was named Revelation Player over Nikola Mirotic. At the end of 2011, he signed with the New Orleans Hornets and played his first NBA game on January 1, 2012, against the Sacramento Kings. He played 54 games, in which he averaged 20.1 minutes, 5.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists. His various injuries reduced his performance in the NBA and he chose to leave the league and go to Real Madrid in Spain. He is still active with the Arecibo Captains of Puerto Rico.

Jorge Gutiérrez played at the University of California (Berkeley) with the Golden Bears (2008-2012) and signed his first 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets in March 2014. He played side by side with Jason Kidd, with whom he had met in college. The Nets later offered him a multi-year contract. After taking several stumbles, in April 2015 he signed a multi-year contract with the Bucks that did not last long because this team let him go in the middle of that season in which he practically did not play.

Toscano himself closes, after graduating from Marquette University in 2015 joined the Soles de Mexicali in the National Professional Basketball League (LNBP) of Mexico. A year later he went to play with the Fuerza Regia de Monterrey in the same league where he was crowned champion of the LNBP. After participating in a training camp, on February 6, 2020, he signs a three-year contract with the Golden State Warriors, with whom he remains active after two seasons. In the most recent one he averaged 4.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 73 games and an average of 13.6 minutes per game.

With all these backgrounds, Gael Bonilla not only has the drive, but also the talent and, above all, better conditions than his predecessors to reach the NBA and stay there for a long time.