When the Vancouver Volcanoes open the International Basketball League season tonight in Bellingham, the team will resemble its past and coach Joe Navarro hopes that it looks like the 2011 championship season.
The Volcanoes welcome back several rotation players who contributed to the title team from two years ago, as well as fresh talent assured to make the roster one of the deepest that Navarro has seen during his four years with the organization.
"On paper, we're really good," Navarro said of his 12-man roster that will kick off the season tonight against the reigning IBL champion Bellingham Slam. "To say the old cliché, the games aren't played on paper. We'll have to work on chemistry stuff but these guys have already played together in summer pro league."
Vancouver — dogged by injuries throughout the 2012 season — advanced to the league semifinals where it lost to Bellingham. Still, that team could not compare with the 2011 Volcanoes.
Now, Vancouver will begin the new season with a healthy squad and familiar faces in point guard Josh Torver and forwards Jake Carlisle and Kevin Bloodsaw — players who led the team to the 2011 championship. Bloodsaw even returns to the court after spending the previous season on the bench as an assistant coach with the Volcanoes.
"He had just won a championship and figured that would be a good way to go out," Navarro said of Bloodsaw's decision last season. "(But) he wanted to get back out and play. He still thinks he has some games left in him and in practices, he really does"
"I'd much rather have him on the floor."
Also, the Volcanoes have acquired former Bellingham sharpshooter Paul Hafford and 7-foot center Gjio Bain. Last year, Hafford averaged 23.6 points on 47-percent shooting while with the Slam but relocated to Vancouver during the offseason.
"The defending champion Bellingham's leading scorer is on my team," Navarro proclaimed, and then recalled how he learned of Hafford's arrival. "I was very happy about that. I saw on Facebook that he moved to Vancouver and I responded immediately."
Bain, who hails from the Bahamas, played college basketball at the University of Southern Mississippi and spent part of last season with the Olympia Reign of the IBL.
"The guy is really good," Navarro said. "We got lucky to get him."
VANCOUVER VOLCANOES 2013 SCHEDULE
(Home games IN BOLD played at Clark College O'Connell Sports Complex)
Friday, April 19 at Bellingham Slam, 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 21 vs. BELLINGHAM SLAM, 5 p.m.
Saturday, April 27 vs. PORTLAND CHINOOKS, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 4 vs. KITSAP ADMIRALS, 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 5 at Salem Sabres, 5 p.m.
Friday, May 10 vs. SALEM SABRES, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 11 at Portland Chinooks, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 17 at Salem Sabres, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 18 vs. LONESTAR STRIKERS, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 24 at Portland Chinooks, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 25 vs. JAPAN NIPPON TORNADOES, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 31 vs. SALEM SABRES, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 2 vs. JAPAN NIPPON TORNADOES, 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 8 vs. EAST BAY PIT BULLS, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 16 vs. SEATTLE FLIGHT, 5 p.m.
Friday, June 21 at Bellingham Slam, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 23 at Seattle Flight, 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 29 at East Bay Pit Bulls, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 30 vs. JAPAN NIPPON TORNADOES, 5 p.m.
On the web at VancouverVolcanoes.com