UCLA play­ers re­turn af­ter China shoplift­ing in­ci­dent

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Beth Har­ris

Three UCLA bas­ket­ball play­ers de­tained in China on sus­pi­cion of shoplift­ing are on a plane back to Los An­ge­les.

Pac-12 Com­mis­sioner Larry Scott said Tues­day the mat­ter “has been re­solved to the sat­is­fac­tion of the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties.”

Fresh­men LiAn­gelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Ri­ley were de­tained in Hangzhou for ques­tion­ing fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of shoplift­ing last week be­fore the 23rd-ranked Bru­ins beat Georgia Tech in their sea­son-open­ing game in Shang­hai as part of the an­nual Pac-12 China game. Ball is the brother of LA Lak­ers guard Lonzo Ball.

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 Wed­nes­day night against Cen­tral Arkansas.

The school 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 morn­ing in Los An­ge­les, but won’t 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 doesn’t 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 that UCLA made “sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts” on be­half of its three play­ers.

Trump said Tues­day he had a long con­ver­sa­tion about the three play­ers’ sta­tus with Chi­nese coun­ter­part Xi Jin­ping.

Ball, Hill and Ri­ley were ex­pected to have an im­me­di­ate im­pact as part of UCLA’s highly touted re­cruit­ing class. 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.

For­wards Hill and Ri­ley, both four-star re­cruits, fig­ure to bol­ster 7-foot se­nior Thomas Welsh in the front­court.

The Bru­ins trav­eled to China as part of the Pac-12’s global ini­tia­tive that seeks to pop­u­lar­ize the league’s ath­letic pro­grams 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, the Chi­nese com­merce gi­ant that both UCLA and Georgia Tech vis­ited be­fore the shoplift­ing in­ci­dent oc­curred.

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