Volcanoes begin defense of IBL title

Core group of players return for a new coach

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

OK, so it’s not how the Vancouver Volcanoes were hoping to “ring” in their new season.

The Volcanoes take to the court tonight for the first time since winning the International Basketball League championship last July. And while the team might be ready for a new season, the championship rings the franchise ordered are not, putting a planned ring ceremony on hold.

No matter.

“We’re looking pretty good,” said Andre Murray, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Portland State who led the Volcanoes in scoring last season. “We have the core group back; I’m looking forward to repeating.”

While the core group will be back, the Volcanoes tonight will look much different from the team that won the championship.

Bryan Hunter stepped down as coach, remaining as the general manager while also taking over ownership of the league. And several players — including Devon Uskoski and Lawrence Blackledge — are completing seasons overseas before joining the Volcanoes.

“It’s actually an opportunity to get a look at some guys,” said coach Joe Navarro, who served as an assistant under Hunter the past two years. “We’re going to be a lot more up-tempo. We’re going to be more of a perimeter team.”

The Volcanoes are coming off the first title in the franchise’s seven-year history in the IBL, a league that features former college players. This year’s 10-team league includes franchises based in Bellingham, Olympia, Portland, Salem, and McMinnville, Ore.

“It’s kind of hard to say what can you do after you’ve won something,” Murray said. “I think we can’t get complacent; we’re going to be the hunted team now.”

IF YOU GO

What: Salem Soldiers at Vancouver Volcanoes, the opening game of Vancouver’s IBL season.

When/where: 7 p.m. Saturday at Clark College’s O’Connell Sports Center.

Tickets: $7 adults; $3 ages 8-18; free for age 7-under.

On the web:www.vancouvervolcanoes.com