UCLA play­ers face pun­ish­ment af­ter in­ci­dent

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Beth Har­ris

LOS AN­GE­LES » Three UCLA bas­ket­ball play­ers de­tained in China on sus­pi­cion of shoplift­ing re­turned home, where they may be dis­ci­plined by the school as a re­sult of the in­ter­na­tional scan­dal.

Fresh­men LiAn­gelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Ri­ley ar­rived at Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port late Tues­day af­ter­noon af­ter a 12-hour flight from Shang­hai. They ig­nored re­porters’ shouted ques­tions while mak­ing their way through a horde of me­dia out­side and get­ting into a van that took off from the de­par­ture level.

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

The play­ers were de­tained in Hangzhou for ques­tion­ing fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of shoplift­ing last week be­fore the 23rdranked Bru­ins beat Ge­or­gia Tech in their sea­sonopen­ing game in Shang­hai as part of the Pac-12 China game. The rest of the UCLA team re­turned home last Satur­day.

A per­son with knowl­edge of the Pac-12’s de­ci­sion said any dis­ci­pline in­volv­ing the trio would be up to UCLA. The per­son spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the con­fer­ence doesn’t plan any sanc­tions.

UCLA Chan­cel­lor Gene Block said the school is weigh­ing its op­tions.

“I want to be clear that we take se­ri­ously any vi­o­la­tions of the law,” he said in a state­ment. “In this par­tic­u­lar case, both Ath­let­ics and the Of­fice of Stu­dent Con­duct will re­view this in­ci­dent and guide any ac­tion with re­spect to the in­volved stu­dents. Such pro­ceed­ings are con­fi­den­tial, which lim­its the spe­cific in­for­ma­tion that can be shared.”

There was no im­me­di­ate word on the trio’s 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 at a cam­pus news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day, but won’t take ques­tions.

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 ath­letes.

It wasn’t clear un­der what terms the play­ers were freed to re­turn to the U.S.

“We are all very pleased that these young men have been al­lowed to re­turn home to their fam­i­lies and univer­sity,” Scott said.

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

Ball, Hill and Ri­ley were ex­pected to have an im­me­di­ate im­pact as part of UCLA’s highly touted re­cruit­ing class. In­stead, they are be­ing talked about solely for their ac­tions off the court.

Ball, a guard coun­ter­part whose brother Lonzo is a rookie for the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, av­er­aged 33.8 points as a high school se­nior. The el­der Ball played one sea­son in West­wood and left early for the NBA draft.

The Balls’ out­spo­ken fa­ther, LaVar, was in China at the time of the in­ci­dent. He spent some time pro­mot­ing the fam­ily’s Big Baller Brand of ath­letic shoes with his youngest son, LaMelo, while his mid­dle son was de­tained.

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.

JAE C. HONG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

UCLA bas­ket­ball player LiAn­gelo Ball keeps his head down as he leaves Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Tues­day in Los An­ge­les.

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