How Juan Toscano-Anderson escaped ‘monsters’ of his youth to become Oakland’s Warrior

Retired teacher Wilhelmina Attles was cleaning her kitchen last month when she came across a coffee mug adorned with signatures from one of her old third-grade classes at Montclair Elementary School.

Toward the bottom of the cup was a familiar name in green marker: Juan Toscano-Anderson, now a 6-foot-6, 213-pound backup forward for the Golden State Warriors who has become a fan favorite.

But when Toscano-Anderson first arrived at Mrs. Attles’ classroom in cornrows and a Larry Hughes replica Warriors jersey, he was an 8-year-old from the urban flatlands of East Oakland in a room filled with children from the more affluent Oakland hills.

Wilhelmina, the wife of Golden State legend Al Attles, could sense that something troubled her new student. There was a sadness in his eyes. In class, his voice barely rose above a whisper.

What Attles didn’t know then was that Toscano-Anderson was homeless. Some nights, he slept with his mom, Patricia Toscano, and sister, Ariana, in their silver sedan.

Willhemina Attles, wife of Warriors' Hall of Famer Al Attles, holds a mug signed by current Warrior Juan Toscano-Anderson and his 3rd grade classmates from back in 2002 when Attles was Toscano-Anderson's teacher at Montclair Elementary School in Oakland, Calif.. Photographed outside the school on Monday, March 1, 2021.

Willhemina Attles, wife of Warriors’ Hall of Famer Al Attles, holds a mug signed by current Warrior Juan Toscano-Anderson and his 3rd grade classmates from back in 2002 when Attles was Toscano-Anderson’s teacher at Montclair Elementary School in Oakland, Calif.. Photographed outside the school on Monday, March 1, 2021.

Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle

But on the blacktop at recess, Toscano-Anderson forgot all about the outside world. For those 20 or so minutes, he was like any other kid, giggling as he beat his classmates in footraces or pickup basketball games.