With just two weeks left to be voted in for a chance to play in a winner-take-all $2 million league dubbed ‘The Basketball Tournament’, I interviewed Albert Varacallo, the team’s owner, general manager, and player to find out a little bit more about the Dreams’ mission and what to expect this year.
The Dream are no strangers to ‘The Tournament’, also known as ‘TBT’, as they participated in last year’s tournament as a 16-seed facing an eventual final-four team in the first round. After the tournament, the Dream kept their dreams alive by entering the Premier Basketball league, a semi-professionally league branching all across the country, where they endured a rough, but educational, season.
With more experience, a year of “Triple-A” basketball under their belts, and more of the community involved the Dream are set to #DreamBig and take “The Basketball Tournament” by storm.
Before the interview I’d like to draw your attention to the end of the article where I’ve included all of the links Albert and I thought were important, including how to vote and more information on the team as well as each foundation’s mission!
How did you first hear of The Tournament prior to last year’s voting?
I believe I came across a post on Facebook a few years ago saying that somebody played against former NBA player Smush Parker in a summer basketball tournament and it caught my eye. I then randomly wound up on the TBT website, did a little research, then decided to go for it last year and see what I could do by entering a team and trying to get enough votes to qualify and play, and the community got behind us and made it happen!
Last year the DuBois Dream entered the tournament planning to split the $2 million dollar prize money between the Dr. Albert Varacallo Foundation and the building of a Miracle Field in DuBois, Pennsylvania. What’s in store for the prize money this year?
We are still playing for my Dad’s Foundation (Dr. Albert Varacallo Foundation) as well as the Miracle League Field, but this year we added two more great causes near and dear to us. We are playing for Shea McKinney, an 8 year old girl who has been battling cancer all year and is so strong and tough in her battle and we are definitely honored to play for her. We are also playing for a great organization in the area called Caring and Sharing for Kids; a non-profit organization that helps pay expenses for kids with illnesses. They have a great group working over there and have been doing some awesome things for over a decade taking care of kids with illnesses as well as their families and all those expenses associated with kids who became ill.
With a game under your belt in ‘The Tournament’, as well as a full inaugural-season in the Premier Basketball League, what are some key differences you see going into this year’s tournament?
To be honest I’m not exactly sure what to expect this year, but I can guess that it will be just as competitive and just as fun, if not more fun. For those of us who did not get a chance to go to a big Division I program, it is always exciting to play on a national stage against top level talent who have either played in the NBA, or are currently playing in some of the top Leagues overseas. It is not going to be easy, but I believe big things can happen, and hopefully once we would get in, we have as good of a shot at winning it all as any other team!
Last year, the Dream went into the tournament as severe underdogs as a 16-seed facing off against the #1 overall seed and 2015 & 2016 Final Four team, City of Gods. You took the team into half only down 3 points, how has the feeling knowing you can hang with these teams who have plenty of NBA-talent kept you motivated entering this year’s tournament?
It was a great experience. City of Gods was one of the most talented teams in the Tournament, and there was a reason they were the #1 overall seed. We played hard and did our best to hang with them as long as possible to give us a shot to win the game in the end, and we did that through the majority of the game, but their size and experience really wore us down and they were able to make enough shots and key plays to pull away a little bit in the second half. What was really cool about them though, was the level of respect they showed us after the game. They complimented us on a great game and I can honestly say I was rooting for them last year after getting to know them a little bit. It’s pretty cool to say we played against former NBA players and top players overseas and almost pulled off an upset, but now it’s all about taking that next step in our progression and making the plays to win a game against a team like that!
Are there any major differences in how the team’s heavy 3-point attack style of play fits into The Tournament compared to the PBL?
The Basketball Tournament is a really cool format, and if a team gets hot from 3 they can pull off an upset against anyone. It is a quicker game and the halves are shorter than in the PBL (which goes by NBA rules with 12 minute quarters), so if you’re able to knock down 3’s and defend, I think The Tournament gives our team a better opportunity to pull off an upset against a heavily favored or talented team like last year.
What has the support of DuBois and, from what I have read, potentially the best fans in the PBL meant to you over the last year?
DuBois and the DuBois Dream Fans from the surrounding communities are unbelievable! They honestly keep me going and pick me up if I’m ever having a bad day, because they are with this team whether we win or lose. They make it that much easier to continue to give back and want to do more through the team for them! The kids are great, the parents are great, and I really think we have a foundation for something special here thanks to them. Without them we don’t have this team or have these opportunities so I can’t thank them enough for all of their love and support! It truly means more to me than they know!
Are there any big additions to this year’s team that you’d like to announce?
I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to leave that a mystery at the moment. I have some things in the works and I’ve given guys who have played on the DuBois Dream (PBL and TBT) an opportunity to show they want to play by getting votes for the team because without the votes, we don’t get in. I’m just trying to be fair in this process, but I know the right people and players will come along and step up and we’ll end up having a great roster. I love the fact that the DuBois Dream has been able to have not only good players, but good people a part of this organization, and I am going to continue to do my best to keep doing that for the fans and for the community.
Any idea who the ringer may be?
I don’t know if we’ll have a ringer this year, but I may have to make a push for Kobe Bryant or Paul Pierce if we would qualify for one (laughs).
If you were given a one or two-sentence pitch to convince a random person on the street to vote for the DuBois Dream over the other teams, what would it be?
I would hate to put pressure on anyone to vote for us to get into TBT, so I apologize if I have done that to anyone so far, but I honestly want people to vote for our team because of what we stand for and what we are trying to build; not only for this team, but for this community. I really do believe that Dreams can come true from anywhere and for anybody if they work hard enough, remain positive, and trust that God will provide and has something great in store for them. I want the DuBois Dream to provide hope to people that they can achieve their Dreams no matter what they are, so I hope anyone who knows about us or is just hearing about us could take a minute out of their day to vote for our team to play on a national stage on ESPN for some great causes, because I would really appreciate it! Every vote, every like, every share, really does count and I can’t thank the fans enough for having our backs and continuing to spread the word to put us in a position to qualify for a second straight year….we’re almost there with close to 2 weeks left in the voting period!
Anything else you would like to add?
Yeah, I would just like to thank everyone who has voted and who continues to support me and the DuBois Dream. This community has welcomed this team and this idea with open arms and it truly shows how special this town and the Tri-County Area really is. I never would have imagined after one year that the Dream would become what it is today, but that just goes to show that when you work hard, take steps of faith, and trust God, He will not only provide what you need, but so much more! I am going to continue to try and build this team and this organization into something so much bigger for this community and I still have visions of a sports complex and turning this team into and NBA or NBA D-League team. Might as well #DreamBig right?! I would like to give a shoutout to my awesome family, friends, girlfriend, and community for their support. Also, if everyone could please support Shea, the Dr. Albert Varacallo Foundation, Miracle League Field, and Caring and Sharing for Kids, I would really appreciate it! They all are very special people and organizations trying to do so much good in this community, it is truly an honor to play and represent them in this Tournament and I can’t thank them enough for all that they do and for letting us play for them!
You can vote for the DuBois Dream here:
Pray For Shea
Caring and Sharing for Kids
Dr. Albert Varacallo Foundation
Miracle League Field
I’d like to thank Albert for reaching out to me to conduct this interview and for always supporting my dreams while I support his. Best of luck to the DuBois dream and always remember to #DreamBig!
Questions, comments, concerns?