The message being delivered by the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) is heard loud and clear.
Currently consisting of seven teams and spanning from Ontario to British Columbia, the mission is to remain unified and push forward the goal of being a primary entertainment option for basketball fans in Canada as the league prepares to enter its third season.
Dylan Kular has been there since the beginning and quickly rose up the ranks to become the Vice President of Operations for the Fraser Valley Bandits.
The 28-year-old had already established himself in Abbotsford, B.C., as an advocate for the participation of youth in sports when he took on the role of promoting basketball in the community at a professional level.
His resume spoke for itself, leading CEBL executives to hire him on the recommendation of the municipal government, not to mention on the first impression of meeting the eager marketing consultant at the launch of the Bandits in 2018.
Kular, who is as excited as anyone by the CEBL’s intentions to return to local markets and begin play in early June, says the current goal is to rekindle the relationship with fans and to further establish the team’s presence in the community.
“It’s super important for us to be able to have fans back in the stands,” says Kular. “That’s part of the reason why we postponed our start date to June 5th, rather than May – just to give ourselves and really the country the best chance to be able to have fans at events in some capacity.”
Of course that possibility will hinge on the consent of government officials, but Kular indicates it is time for the Bandits to return home, despite the success of the Summer Series held in St. Catharines, Ont., last year.
“Having our players in the community, interacting with partners, running camps, academies, whatever it is, that’s the most powerful thing that we can do,” says Kular. “And that’s really a big part of why the CEBL was so successful in year one. We missed that in year two because unfortunately with COVID we were unable to have our players in market. The Summer Series was successful and we want to build on that for year three.”
In a league that is always thinking several steps ahead, Kular understands the benefits of strengthening ties on a local level.
“Everything we do is for the long term,” says Kular. “The CEBL is here to stay and we want to be one of the most successful leagues in this country. So we’ll always have to be forward thinking in everything that we do.”
While Kular works as the “boots on the ground” in Abbotsford, he also credits the vision coming from the league office and the determination to push through the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.
“The league model, how it was built, was to be adaptable and to go through these ups and downs,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to how Richard Petko and Mike Morreale built this league [such that] we’ll be able to get through this pandemic and be super successful on the other end.”
Commissioner Morreale is responsible for the centralized approach that brings stability to the young league.
“The CEBL office does upwards of 50 per cent or more of the work of all of our teams,” says Morreale. “We run the national marketing campaigns, take care of national partnerships, work on all the branding, all the contracting, all the player signings, all the digital, all the ticketing, all the scheduling, all the officials.”
Morreale asserts that this unified approach sets each team up for success and points to a popular football team as an example.
“I always use the analogy that the Buffalo Bills are nothing without the NFL shield,” says Morreale. “It’s the NFL shield that makes that team important and relevant and valuable. So our teams, as great as they are, are nothing without the CEBL league office. We are the engine that drives it. And what we ask for our markets to do is to localize that and get into communities and now bring that to a local level.”
However, Morreale acknowledges that the Bandits are in good hands with Kular running the show and thinks the sky is the limit for the ambitious executive.
“We realized rather quickly that we had an all-star there and he was surrounded by a couple great sidekicks. They work very well together and as we were looking to move from year one to year two, we wanted to give Dylan more autonomy and more control because he was the boots on the ground there and continues to be, obviously.
“He’s earned it. There’s definitely room for growth, rather that’s at a team level or at a league level, we want to keep all our staff. We’ll allow that ability to grow and to get better as long as Dylan wants to be involved and I have a feeling that will be for a long, long time.”