China releases UCLA’s LiAngelo Ball and teammates

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LOS ANGELES — LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA freshmen accused of shoplifting in China, are headed back to Los Angeles after being released by Chinese authorities, officials said.

”UCLA men’s basketball student-athletes LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley are returning from China to Los Angeles at this time,” according to a UCLA statement this morning.

Ball, Hill and Riley along with UCLA Coach Steve Alford and Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero will make statements to the media on Wednesday. But none of them will take questions.

“We are pleased that these young men have been allowed to return home to their families and university,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a published statement. “We are grateful for the role that our Chinese hosts played, and for the courtesy and professionalism of local authorities. We also want to acknowledge UCLA’s significant efforts on behalf of their student-athletes. Finally, we want to thank the President, the White House and the U.S. State Department for their efforts towards resolution.”

The release of the alleged shoplifters followed President Donald Trump’s intervention. He said on his way to the U.S. after 12 days in Asia that Chinese President Xi Jinping was helping out in the case.

“President Xi has been terrific on that subject,” Trump told reporters
aboard Air Force One, bound for Honolulu. “But that was not a good subject. That was not something that should have happened.”

Trump and Xi met Thursday in Beijing.

Ball, Riley and Hill were detained last Tuesday on suspicion of shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou. They remained under house arrest at the luxury hotel.

“What they did was unfortunate,” Trump said. “You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They (the Chinese) do not play games.”

When asked “do you expect to see them coming home soon?” Trump replied, “I hope so, I hope so.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that a U.S. official indicated that shoplifting charges against the players had been reduced, and the case could be resolved soon.

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