LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three UCLA basketball players detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting have been allowed to return home, where they may be disciplined by the school as a result of the international scandal.
Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were on a plane back to Los Angeles that was due to land late Tuesday afternoon after a 12-hour flight from Shanghai.
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 23rd-ranked Bruins beat Georgia Tech in their season-opening 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.
Three UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in China could be coming home sooner than expected if Chinese President Xi Jinping steps in. President Donald Trump asked Xi to resolve the case during his recent state visit in China while on tour of Asia, The Washington Post reported.
Xi promised Trump that the student athletes would be treated fairly, but given the country’s history of racism against Black people and a justice system that has been called “flawed,” the players’ legal future was uncertain.
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has been in touch with the families, the UCLA coaching staff and Chinese authorities, a source told the newspaper.
In the meantime, the ball players will likely remain in a hotel in Hangzhou for at least another week. They were first arrested last Tuesday.
LiAngelo Ball—the son of LaVar Ball and brother of Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball—and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were reportedly caught on video surveillance footage stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near the hotel where the team was staying ahead of the season’s first game last Friday.
The arrests happened days before Trump’s visit. The two leaders did not speak about it publicly even though the arrests made headlines worldwide. If convicted, they could be sentenced to as many as 10 years in prison.
PHOTO: UCLA Basketball
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