CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – The removal of 10 varsity players from Kadena High School’s basketball teams due to unspecified code-of-conduct violations during a recent off-island visit to Taipei could have long-term effects on future trips.

Eight boys and two girls players were suspended from the Panthers teams, Okinawa district superintendent Michael Thompson said Wednesday. The nature of the violation was not revealed, nor were the names of the students involved.

Four appeals of the suspensions were filed on behalf of five total players, two from the same family. The district reviewed the appeals, and the players are eligible to return to their teams after the Okinawa-American Friendship Tournament Feb. 4-5, Thompson said.

“They would still have to re-earn their spots on the team,” he said.

Coaches and players on both teams declined to comment.

“Absolutely,” Thompson said when asked if the incident would affect future journeys to Taipei, where Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s basketball and volleyball teams have played exchanges with Taipei American School.

He said he’s putting any future requests on hold until Okinawa Athletics & Activities Council administrators, coaches, parents and players conduct a review of expectations while on such trips.

“The OAAC is going to have to make some decisions,” Thompson said. “Established OAAC policies were not being followed. As of right now, everybody has to review what they’re doing. Some serious failures occurred.”

Thompson said he has not shut the door completely on future travel requests by teams, but “as of right now, any other requests will be under much greater scrutiny,” he said.

Thompson’s decision will not prevent Kubasaki’s basketball teams from traveling to Tokyo this weekend for the American School In Japan’s Kanto Classic, since that trip was already approved, he said.

“I am not happy,” Thompson said. “I’m beyond disappointed.”

Meanwhile, Gerald Johnson, who has coached the boys team the last five-plus seasons, stepped down after Kadena’s 68-62 loss last Friday to Kubasaki, citing health concerns. He said previously that he had planned to step down after the season.

Johnson’s stepping down was not related to what occurred in Taipei, Thompson and school officials said.

Taking over the varsity reins the rest of the season will be Robert Bliss. He’s a longtime DODEA coach who has spent the last 17 years on Okinawa, teaching and coaching at both Kadena and Kubasaki, and coached the Panthers to their last Far East Division I Tournament title, in 2010.

Twitter: @ornauer_stripes

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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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