Dormant since 2014, Vancouver Volcanoes basketball is back with new ownership as part of a fast-growing nationwide league.
The latest incarnation of the Volcanoes was introduced Thursday at Camas Meadows Golf Course. The team will begin playing in spring of 2022, with home games at Clark College.
Vancouver is an expansion team in The Basketball League, a professional league that has grown from eight original teams in 2018 to 29 this spring.
The league plans to have 48 franchises in 2022, three of those being in the Northwest. A franchise in Salem, Oregon, will start in 2022 along with the revival of the Yakima Sun Kings.
Thursday, TBL President Dave Magley said the league aims to thrive in smaller markets.
“Vancouver is the perfect market for us because we can be a big deal here,” Magley said. “We’re a big deal in Kokomo, Indiana, where 2,500 fans come out to watch us. As a league, there are so many separate standalone markets that we can be important to.”
Some teams are in big markets such a Detroit, San Diego, Las Vegas and Houston, where former NBA star Steven Francis owns the Houston Push. But more typical of cities in the league are Owensboro, Kentucky, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Flint, Michigan.
Magley described the TBL as the third tier of professional basketball, one step below the NBA’s developmental G-League.
Founded in 2005, the Volcanoes played as a semi-pro team in the International Basketball League. The franchise ceased operations when the league folded in 2014.
The franchise’s high point came in 2011, when the Volcanoes won the IBL championship in a packed gym at Clark College.
Former Volcanoes owner Bryan Hunter sold the franchise’s image rights to new owner Curtis Hill, who played for the Volcanoes in the team’s early days.
The TBL initially approved Hill’s Portland Storm as an expansion franchise prior to the 2021 season. The Storm didn’t play this season due to COVID restrictions. During that time, Hill opted to relocate and rebrand as the Volcanoes.
“(Hunter) was very gracious to let us continue that brand and continue that tradition,” Volcanoes general manager and head coach Jeff Perrault said. “What he did here was remarkable. That’s a lot of the reason why we chose Vancouver. We saw the film. We saw the stands filled up. We saw the atmosphere they created. We said, we’ve got to piggyback on that rather than starting from scratch.”
Perrault said the next step is forging partnerships with local businesses to set the team on solid financial ground. Thursday’s announcement was attended by Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and officials from the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.
Tryouts will happen this fall. While the NBA won’t be in the future for most players in the TBL, Perrault said the league can open doors to play professionally overseas or make a career in basketball.
“That ball can take you a lot of places,” Perrault said. “The vision of this league is to give people an opportunity. Yes, it’s a lower level. But it’s a level to develop and to gain confidence.”