Gibault hoops legends reach Hall of Fame status

Josh Toal
Josh Toal
Mark Derwort

In more than 30 years of coaching at Gibault, Dennis Rueter has amassed more than 600 victories on his way to being inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. In the past three years, two of his greatest players, Marc Derwort and Josh Toal, have joined him.

Derwort, who played at Gibault from 1988-1992, was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 2012 after being nominated by Rueter. Derwort certainly has the qualifications of a hall of famer.

He is the career rebound leader at Gibault, with 1,006, and is third on the career scoring list with 1,549 points. Additionally, his 351 rebounds in 1990-91 have him tied with Michael Hoffman (2008) for the most in a single season. In 1992, his senior year, Derwort was the Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year.

Derwort also had a successful college career, playing four years at McKendree and receiving all-region honors his senior year. He scored 1,561 points at McKendree and holds the Bearcat record for three-point field goal percentage at .462.

“He had all the credentials to make the Hall of Fame,” Rueter said. “I don’t think he was too hard of a call for the voters.”

In addition to the individual accomplishments, Derwort and his classmates were at the core of some of Gibault’s best teams. Derwort was one of several sophomores in the starting lineup in 1989-90, when the team racked up 19 victories. The next season, he was one of five juniors in the starting lineup, and led the squad to a 25-5 record and a sectional championship. Derwort and his classmates wrapped up their careers in 1991-92 with a 23-5 season.

“Not only did we have great success, but we also just really liked playing with each other,” Derwort said of his teammates.

Derwort’s playing career is full of lasting memories, such as winning the sectional championship his junior year, and playing in the St. Louis Coca-Cola Shootout — one of the premier high school basketball tournaments in the country — his senior year. But it was the overall experience he remembers most fondly.

“Just playing at Gibault itself was great,” he said. “The band, the fans, the student section — it was all so much fun.”

Rueter says Derwort’s success was due in large part to his work ethic.

“He’s as hard-working a player as we’ve ever had off the court,” the coach said. “He wasn’t the best athlete, but he really made himself into a great player.”

Derwort returned the praise.

“Mr. Rueter was a great coach and a great teacher,” he said. “I learned the most about basketball from him.”

But for all the praise for teammates and coaches, Derwort says his father was the most influential figure in his playing career. Growing up in Marissa, Derwort had never even heard of Gibault until 1988, when circumstance led his father to send him to the small Catholic school in Waterloo. The rest is history.

“My father was really the one who gave me the opportunity to succeed,” he said. “He made the most difference. I owe a lot to him.”

Derwort is still in the high school basketball business. He is in his seventh year as head coach at New Athens, who just happened to be Gibault’s opponent Tuesday night. The game was postponed due to inclement weather.

Josh Toal, another Gibault hoops legend, was voted into the Illinois High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in late 2013, and will be officially inducted in April.

Toal, a 1995 graduate, is 10th on the Gibault career scoring list with 1,354 points, and eighth on the career rebounding list with 550 boards. He is also the all-time leader in assists (433) and is a “no-brainer” for the Hall of Fame in Rueter’s mind.

“Josh might be the best athlete we’ve ever had here at Gibault,” Rueter said of Toal, who was first team all-state in both basketball and soccer during his senior year.

In 1993-94, Toal was the only starting junior on a senior laden team that went 24-5. The next year, he carried the team to a 22-8 record. Toal was far and away the best player on that team, according to Rueter.

“He was the leading scorer, one of the leading rebounders, the best defender, he had the most assists — he did it all. I’m not sure any one player has ever meant more to his team than Josh did that year,” Rueter said.

After graduating, Toal played two years at SWIC before playing at the University of Idaho, where he had a successful two years, playing about 20 minutes per game, according to Rueter.

When looking back upon his Gibault career, Toal, like Derwort, concentrated more on his entire playing experience as opposed to one specific moment.

“There’s not just one memory,” he said. “Just the camaraderie with the guys and playing together — that’s the one thing I really miss.”

“The reason we were so successful was because we were so close as teammates,” he added.

In addition to that tight bond, Toal was also thankful his teammates were great players.

“Our team was loaded with good athletes,” he said. “When I threw a hard pass, they caught it. Even when I made mistakes, they were always there to pick me back up,” he said.

Along with his teammates, Toal attributes his success to coaches, particularly Rueter and ICS Coach Dale Anderson, who helped him launch his playing career.

“They were no-nonsense guys, and we were all receptive of that,” he said. “For them to instill that in me at a young age really helped a lot.”

Today, Toal is the owner of Bellacino’s restaurant and runs two locations, in St. Charles , Mo. and St. Peters, Mo. He also has three daughters — 10-year-old twins and a 5-year-old — all of whom are already into sports, looking to carry on their father’s legacy.

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