15 Nov, 2017
UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill have been suspended from the basketball team indefinitely after returning from a trip to China, where they were held for shoplifting.
“They will have to earn their way back,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said during a news conference Wednesday.
Alford said the players will not suit up, take part in practice or travel with the team while the school performs a review of the situation.
The players were questioned last week about allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins had been staying before leaving for Shanghai to face Georgia Tech on Friday. They were released on bail early Wednesday morning and had been staying at a lakeside hotel in Hangzhou since then.
President Trump, who was already on an Asia trip, spoke to President Xi Jinping of China about the incident, and the players were allowed to return to the United States on Tuesday.
“These are good young men who have exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment, and now they have to live with that,” Alford said.
All three players read statements of apology at Wednesday’s news conference.
Ball, brother of Los Angeles Lakers star Lonzo Ball, said: “I didn’t exercise my best judgment, and I’m sorry for that.”
“This does not define who I am,” he added. “My family raised me better than that.”
At Lakers shootaround Wednesday, Lonzo Ball said he hadn’t spoken to his brother yet.
“Nice to have him back,” he said. “Obviously he made a mistake, but got to learn from it and move on.”
President Trump had tweeted about being thanked earlier Wednesday.
All three players, Alford and UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero did offer their thanks to the president.
“I’d also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well,” Ball said.
Riley said: “To President Trump and the United States government: Thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out.”
“Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home,” Hill said.
Guerrero offered some details on the incident. He said that the players stole from three stores, were arrested and posted bail of about $2,200. That money has since been refunded as charges were withdrawn.
He said that after being arrested, the players had to surrender their passports and were under some travel restrictions. But the government did not confine them to their hotel. That was the school’s decision.
All five people at the news conference also thanked the Chinese police and government for their handling of the situation.
Riley said that he was “embarrassed and ashamed.”
“I take full responsibility for the mistake I have made — shoplifting,” he said. “I know that this goes beyond me letting my school down. I let the entire country down.”
Hill made a point of apologizing to fans.
“What I did was stupid. There’s no other way to put it. I’m not that type of person,” he added.
Alford said that the players may be able to return to workouts, practices and team meetings, but “that timeline has yet to be determined.”
“They will cooperate fully with the university review of the matter and will use this time to focus on their academics,” he said. “My expectation is that they will work hard to demonstrate why they deserve to be a part of this program.”
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