Year No. 2 has brought with it change — and lots of it — for the DuBois Dream minor league basketball franchise.
Chief among those changes is the fact the Dream find themselves in a new, and much larger, league after playing its inaugural season in the Premier Basketball League (PBL), which featured teams along the East Coast.
DuBois, along with a few other teams from the PBL, collectively made the decision to make the jump to the NABL, which spans the entire United States. The NABL already featured divisions with teams ranging from Florida to Texas and from the Midwest to the West Coast.
The NABL was looking to get a footprint in the Northeast, and the Dream are excited to be a part of that. They will be a member of the league’s new Northeast Division along with former PBL foes Jamestown Jackals and Chautauqua Hurricanes. The Washington Warhawks were also going to make the move but may not be able to play this season.
“It was somewhat mutual, as there were some things behind the scenes that we did not necessarily like,” said Dream player/owner Albert Varacallo III of the move. “The remaining teams in our league decided it was in our best interest to move to this (new) league.
“The NABL was looking for a Northeast Division, and we had the Northeast teams (in PBL) to make this happen. They made us feel wanted from the start, and we really saw an opportunity to grow within this league while also helping the league grow. It was a win-win in my eyes.”
In a release announcing the Northeast Division, NABL Commissioner C. Travis Johnson said, “This has definitely changed the game in Minor League Basketball, because we have the most quality teams in the nation all in one league. And, now the league covers from Texas to Florida and from the Midwest all the way to New York and Pennsylvania.”
The Northeast Division finds itself in a unique position as it enters the NABL, as it will begin play three months earlier that the rest of the league. But, the division winner will still earn a spot in the 2018 NABL Championship Series where it will battle with the other three division champs for the title in San Antonio, Texas.
“We are starting sooner than some of the other divisions because the winter months work out best for our teams and communities,” said Varacallo. “We are planning on branching out and playing teams in different divisions, hopefully this season.
“I am in talks with bringing in a Midwest Team and also potentially traveling down South to play a team in the South Division to build connections and relationships moving forward and to expand the DuBois Dream brand and DuBois, Pa., in general.”
While that change in itself is big enough for any team, fans can also expect to also see a new-look Dream on the floor when they host the Buffalo Blue Hawks in their season-opener Saturday night at the DuBois Middle School. The Blue Hawks are looking to join the Northeast Division and are among the teams DuBois is playing to help fill its schedule.
The Dream enter the 2018 season with a new head coach in Matt Stoey, a DuBois Central Catholic graduate and childhood friend of Varacallo’s. Stoey, who served as an assistant coach for the Clarion University’s mens team the past three years, is no stranger to the DuBois Dream.
He coached the Dream in their back-to-back appearances in The Basketball Tournament Appearances in 2016 and 2017. Now, he takes over that role full time for the Dream in that league endeavors.
“I am very excited to have Coach Stoey at the helm this season for the Dream,” said Varacallo. “We go way back and have been friends since elementary school. So, it makes it that much more special to have him a part of this.
“We had great leadership last year and some great people who were willing to fill in and coach to make this Dream possible. They did a great job, but it is just different with Coach Stoey this season. We are on the same page as to what we want to do and where we want to take this team this season and beyond.
“We are doing everything we possibly can to take that next step forward and really put on a great show for the fans and community. I really think they are going to enjoy Coach Stoey’s philosophy and style of play, and I know he is the right man for the job to take this Dream to a new level.”
That different philosophy also led to Stoey and Varacallo revamping the Dream roster for the upcoming season. Varacallo is just one of three players who return from last year’s Dream squad. The others are Cory Callejas and Sam Roselli, a Ridgway graduate who played at Penn State DuBois.
Fans of area college basketball may recognize a few other players.
Louie Conde played with Roselli at Penn State DuBois, while David I. Blanks Sr. and DeOndre Terrell are Clarion University products. Hasiin Dixon played at Penn State Worthington. Other newcomers include Trey Johnson (Illinois) and Marvin Harris (New Jersey).
“I am going to miss a lot of the guys from last year,” said Varacallo. “But, due to different circumstances and opportunities, and a change of philosophy on the court due in large part to Coach Stoey, we have brought some highly talented and athletic players in this season.
“I think the fans are going to enjoy seeing some of the high-flying players we have, mixed in with the skilled shooters. It is going to be a fun season that is predicated on defense, multi-positional players, and sticking together as a team on and off the court.”
While the basketball-related aspects of the Dream have undergone major changes, the one thing that will remain the same is Varacallo and the Dream’s commitment to giving back to the community.
“The school/community work is our staple,” said Varacallo. “I am fully aware that without all of the work we do in the community, this team would not be where it is today. It is only right that we continue to give back to this amazing community who show us so much love and support, so it makes it that much easier to give back to them.
“We just want to be a team that the community is proud of, because we are proud to represent and be a part of this community. I’m just thankful and appreciative of the opportunity this community has given me and the DuBois Dream that I am going to give back and do as much as I possibly can.”
Saturday’s tip-off against the Blue Hawks is set for 7 p.m. at the middle school.