CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Mid-January normally sees Kubasaki’s and Kadena’s basketball teams preparing for a rugged, physical form of on-court education, against adult teams in the Martin Luther King Invitational Tournament at the Foster Field House.

Not this weekend, however. The Dragons’ boys and the Panthers’ boys and girls teams will instead board flights bound for Taiwan, the second installment of back-to-back weekends of hoops exchanges with Taipei American School, which visited Okinawa last weekend.

“Any time teams are willing to come to the island, we want to take care of them and for us to reciprocate,” Kubasaki boys coach and athletics director Jon Fick said. “We’re thankful for teams to come to us and host us and that DODDS allows us to travel to these events.”

It’s a relationship that was struck up last school year when boys coach Terry Lagerquist and athletics director Kim Kawamoto contacted the Okinawa DODDS schools to see about exchanges in various sports, not just basketball.

Fick and Lagerquist were familiar with each other from Kubasaki’s days of playing until 2010 in the Hong Kong International School holiday tournament. Shawn Jeffrey, then Lagerquist’s assistant is now coaching at Jakarta International School and that school joined the party.

Taipei American made its first basketball trip to Okinawa last year. Jakarta also chose to make the trip last weekend. Each team played a series of boys and girls games against Kubasaki, Kadena and Okinawa Christian.

The close proximity between Taiwan and Okinawa – about 450 miles, or 1 hour, 40 minutes flying time – was one attraction, Fick said.

And while only three of the schools’ sports seasons match up – basketball, volleyball and track – “we’ve been wanting to establish this relationship with Taipei and see where it goes,” Fick said. “So far, so good.”

Two-time reigning Far East D-I volleyball champion Kubasaki made the journey to Taipei to play several matches back in the fall. Fick said the schools are also exploring the chances of competing together in track sometime in the future.

It’s with mixed feelings, Fick said, that the Dragons are bowing out of the MLK. “We didn’t want necessarily to miss the MLK,” but this was the one weekend that Taipei American could do the exchange, he said.

Taipei American was at one time a DODDS school when the United States had forces stationed in Taiwan. It was founded in 1949 and remained a DODDS school until 1979 and was reorganized as a private international school.

It and Jakarta International are two of six schools that comprise the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools. It formed in 1983 and also includes International School Manila, International School Bangkok, International School Kuala Lumpur and Singapore American School.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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