LiAngelo Ball and UCLA basketball players fly back to US after shoplifting scandal in China
US President Donald Trump intercedes with President Xi Jinping on behalf of LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley
Three UCLA basketball players detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting took a plane back to Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12 college conference that UCLA compete in, said the matter “has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities”.
LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were detained in Hangzhou for questioning following allegations of shoplifting last week before the team beat Georgia Tech in their season-opening game in Shanghai as part of the annual Pac-12 China game. Ball is the brother of Lonzo Ball, star of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.
The rest of the UCLA team returned to Los Angeles last Saturday without the three.
There was no immediate word from UCLA on the players’ status for the team’s home opener against Central Arkansas.
The US university said the three players, along with coach Steve Alford and athletic director Dan Guerrero, will make their first public comments about the matter on Wednesday in Los Angeles, but will not take questions.
A person with knowledge of the Pac-12’s decision said any discipline involving the players would be up to UCLA. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the conference does not plan any sanctions.
Scott thanked President Donald Trump, the White House and the State Department for their efforts in resolving what he called “the incident with authorities in Hangzhou, China”. He indicated UCLA made “significant efforts” on behalf of their three players.
Trump said on Tuesday he had a long conversation about the three players’ status with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
New recruits Ball, Hill and Riley were expected to have an immediate impact at UCLA this season. All three are Los Angeles-area players.
Ball, a guard, averaged 33.8 points as a high school senior and follows in his brother’s footsteps after Lonzo played one season in Westwood and left early for the NBA draft.
The Bruins travelled to China as part of the Pac-12’s global initiative that seeks to popularise the league’s athletic programmes and universities overseas.
The China Game is in its third year, and while the scandal was developing the league announced that California and Yale will play in next year’s edition.
The game is sponsored by Alibaba Group, which owns the South China Morning Post, with both UCLA and Georgia Tech visiting the Chinese e-commerce giant before the shoplifting incident occurred.