When the DuBois Dream, a professional minor league basketball team, was founded in 2016 by DuBois’ Albert Varacallo, there weren’t any Progressland athletes on the team.
This season, that changed.
Former Moshannon Valley basketball standout Connor Holobinko and West Branch standout Coty Peters joined, giving the team even more local flair.
Peters said his wife, Lindsey, went to school with Varacallo at DuBois Central Catholic. She saw the team being promoted on Facebook, so Peters added Varacallo as a friend.
“I started asking questions about it to see what it was all about,” Peters said. “With my work schedule — I was working nights — and we had my oldest on the way, so that knocked me out for about a couple years because of the timing. It just wasn’t going to work for me and my family if I was going to do it. So I kept waiting and stayed in touch with Albert.”
Varacallo also stayed in contact with Peters, calling him when the team needed an extra guy to scrimmage during the season or in the summer.
“He always made me feel a part of the group,” said Peters. “That’s what I appreciated most, even though I’m this old out of shape guy trying to run with guys ten years younger me.”
When Varacallo decided to make the team a more local-based product bringing in more local players, Peters decided to make the jump.
That’s where Holobinko comes in.
“I actually got involved with the dream through Coty,” Holobinko said. “We work together and talk about basketball almost every day. He mentioned something to me one day about already being on the team and I really just took interest and it took off from there.”
Peters took Holobinko with him to a pick-up basketball game at DuBois Central Catholic, and Varacallo liked what he saw.
“He asked me right then and there if I wanted to be on the team,” Holobinko said.
While the team plays games in the Premier Basketball League, a majority of the Dream’s work is community-based. The team encourages families to bring their kids to the games, as well as performing community service.
“I like just getting out and talking to new people and interacting and talking to the kids,” Peters said. “It’s a lot of fun and Albert does a lot work to get all of that set up and rolling. So anytime work and life leaves me a chance, I’m more than willing to go do whatever activity it is he has planned for us.
“To play in front of a crowd is awesome and you cant get the people out to come unless you get out and spread the word on what we’re about.”
Holobinko also loves interacting with the community.
“I love doing things for the community,” he said. “Whether that be in my hometown of Houtzdale or in the surrounding areas. Before, I wasn’t exactly sure on how to make an impact using basketball, so I kind of just took a backseat and let Albert and Coty take me under their wing and just learned from them.
“It doesn’t even have to be about talking about basketball or sports in general. Just making someone smile and laugh or showing them that dreams can come true is what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
Both players were excited to get back to playing basketball after years away from the court.
“I always loved playing basketball,” Holobinko said. “Whether that be competitively, at the park with friends, shooting around in the driveway or even on the PlayStation, basketball has always been on my mind. When I saw the opportunity to play again outside of high school or college I knew I had to take it.”
Peters said it’s been great to get out in front of a crowd again after 15 years.
“Having my wife and kids coming to watch even though my daughters won’t remember is the best part,” He said. “We will have pictures and videos to show them later down the road, so it’s really cool.”
Peters has two daughters, Callie (3) and Kendall (1), with his wife Lindsey.
He says juggling his commitments with the Dream along with family and work can be hard sometimes.
He works 4 a.m.-2:30 p.m., while his wife is also working and juggling online classes, not to mention two little girls.
“It’s a pretty large task,” Peters said. “I really don’t know how my wife does it all. I’m a pretty lucky guy. Without my wife’s support I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Peters said he and his wife worked out a system where he would only travel to every other away game to be able to get some family time in during the weekends.
Holobinko, who graduated from Mo Valley in 2017, was recruited to play football and attended Penn State’s main campus where he was a preferred walk-on. But a knee injury derailed his football career, so he’s been working full time deciding what he wants to do down the road.
“As of right now I have a full-time essential job that I love,” he said. “I could see myself going back to school to get a degree and even play ball in my future.”
Both were relishing the time they were getting on the court before the coronavirus abruptly ended the season before their game on March 14.
“It definitely effected me in a negative way,” Holobinko said. “I feel as if I was really starting to get comfortable playing, and I felt as if I was starting to take off a little bit. But life isn’t just about basketball or sports. It was the right decision to cancel the season and make sure everyone is safe. That’s what is most important.”
“Just like everything it ended abruptly for us, and we were really starting to playing really well with each other,” Peters said. “People were getting familiar with each other. Every one was getting that trust and understanding it takes to play with a new group guys, compared to people you have played with all your life.”
Holobinko said his best memory of the season was the team’s first game, getting back on the court for the first time.
“My favorite memory had to be stepping back on the court to play competitively again in what seems like forever,” he said. “It was four years to be exact. My last game was an all-star game on March 30, 2017. Having a big crowd and then scoring my first points made me feel great.”
Peters said it’s been great getting back on the court to play competitively and gives him a chance to represent West Branch. He said he is still best friends with everyone he played with in high school, including Warriors head coach Danny Clark, and assistants Nik Bisko and Eric McCracken. Peters said he is also still close with Paul and Sean Coble, as well as Chris Dotts. All seven of them played under head coach Bill Etchison.
“I love it,” he said. “With Nik, Eric and Danny getting to represent by coaching, I now get to represent by still playing. So anytime I get to represent West Branch I’m on board. That’s still home to me even though I’m in Clearfield now.”
Holobinko said he has plans to play with the team again next year.
“I love all the guys on the team,” he said. “They all have a great attitude and all want to put in work in the offseason and win games.”
Peters said he would love to be able to do it again next season, but that the decision is a little further away for him.
“I don’t know what might change in schedule or what my oldest daughter gets into,” he said. “She is right at the age where next year she could start getting involved with group activities. My wife is really big into cheerleading. She did it IN college at Clarion and she helped coach all-star cheerleading for kids as well here in Clearfield.
“In my head I would love to be able to do. I just want it (Dream) to keep growing. I love the game of basketball and I’ve met a lot of great people through all of this and made a lot of new freinds.
“I recruited Connor this year and hopefully I can recruit a couple more like him. He’s like a little brother to me and been a blast to have around. He’s made it really fun for me this year as well as my other teammates.”
Holobinko shares the same sentiment.
“I love being able to represent such a small town like mine,” he said. “I think any guy at my age would. There’s something people need to understand that come from my area. If you want to and have a chance to play a sport you love after high school, take it. School and classes come first though, don’t be mistaken!
“And don’t think that you have to play at that D-1 school. Going D-3, D-2 or anywhere after high school is a blessing, and if you have the effort and put in the work, then there’s nothing stopping you. Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard, on the field, in classroom, or in life.”