When Johnsburg boys basketball coach Mike Toussaint looks back at photos of his 11-year stint as Skyhawks girls coach, the little girl often jumps out at him.
She was there when he started Johnsburg’s girls on a glorious run that included 246 wins, 97 losses, seven consecutive regional titles and, at one point, three sectional championships in a row.
She was there in the middle, and at the end. Sometimes it was running out on the floor with the team, sometimes in the huddle with her “big sisters.”
Being the coach’s daughter has its privileges, a fact that was not lost with little Kayla Toussaint.
“I took full advantage of it and used it to the best of my ability,” Kayla said.
However, she didn’t play high school basketball for her father.
Toussaint had been asked twice before by then-athletic director Bruce Harbecke if he wanted the boys head coaching job. And twice Toussaint, knowing what he had with the girls, turned it down.
Finally, after a run of four head coaches in five years, Toussaint reconsidered and figured he could offer some coaching stability at his alma mater. Instead of coaching Kayla, he coached his son Brett for a year.
Now, Mike will get a chance to coach Kayla in her last basketball game as a high schooler. Toussaint will guide the Away team in the McHenry County Area All-Star Basketball Extravaganza at 2 p.m. Sunday at Alden-Hebron’s Tigard Gymnasium. The boys game is set to tip off at 5 p.m., as most of the area’s top seniors will display their talents one more time.
Shaun Strange, one of the event organizers over the past decade, suggested that Toussaint, who previously coached in the girls game three times, be given his daughter’s team for one last game. A-H athletic director John Lalor and others helping select the teams supported the idea.
“I checked with [Johnsburg girls coach Brad] Frey because I didn’t want to step on any toes,” Mike Toussaint said. “John [Lalor] pitched it to me, and I thought it would be fun. I coached her and her three teammates in the sixth through eighth grade. I’m really excited about it.”
Kayla Toussaint led the Skyhawks (11-19) at 11.9 points a game and hit 40 3-pointers. She will be joined by senior teammates Maycee Ward, Maddie Himpelmann and Katie Polczkaski on the Away team.
When Mike Toussaint took over the Skyhawks’ girls program, Kayla was 4 years old. She tagged along with her dad to practices and participated in the Little Dribblers program. She saw a lot of victories and made a lot of friends from the area’s most successful girls program of the 2000s.
“I remember just being around the team,” Kayla said. “I got to meet Sarah Kelly [who died in a 2007 auto accident], people I got to look up to, all the leaders who developed me as a player and as a person. As a child, I remember I’d much rather hang out with them than with my friends. I always wanted to be around the team or in the gym or going to summer camps with them.”
Something rubbed off, as Kayla will continue playing next season at NAIA Judson University in Elgin. She signed this winter with Eagles coach Kristi Cirone, who was a three-time Missouri Valley Conference MVP during her career at Illinois State.
“There wasn’t another school that came close,” Kayla said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s close, so my parents can come and watch, and it fits me.”
Mike Toussaint fully realized on Johnsburg’s senior night how much the girls program had meant to Kayla growing up when he saw all the pictures she was in.
“She’s a gym rat,” he said. “Every picture growing up she had a basketball in her hands. She was the Skyhawk little sister the whole time. She grew up with those kids, and it was a good experience for her. They were good role models and they always took her in.
“It’s going to be neat to do this one game together.”