Cody Riley may off to the pros without ever playing in an actual college game.
The LA Times’ Ben Bolch reported on Tuesday that Riley, the UCLA freshman who was involved in the notorious shoplifting scandal in China last year, has declared for the NBA draft. Riley’s name is on a list of 236 players who filed as early entry candidates, which was released by the NBA earlier in the day.
The 20-year-old Riley, a 6-foot-10 forward, appeared in just one exhibition game for the Bruins last season before he was involved in the overseas incident along with fellow freshmen LiAngelo Ball and Jalen Hill. Riley and Hill were ultimately suspended by the school for the remainder of the season as a result. Meanwhile, Ball, who instead chose to withdraw from UCLA, is now playing professionally in Lithuania and is also listed as an early entry candidate for the draft. Hill’s status for the future remains unclear.
Bolch also adds that Riley is not believed to have hired an agent, meaning that he could still potentially return to school if he withdraws his name from draft consideration by May 30. However, Riley would probably be stuck on the depth chart behind this incoming star forward should he return to UCLA.
David Grace is out at UCLA after five seasons as a top assistant on Steve Alford’s staff, and it is safe to say he was pretty blindsided by the news.
Grace, who had served as Alford’s lead recruiter and helped the Bruins field multiple top freshman classes during his tenure, was reported on Saturday to have been let go. After word leaked out, Grace told Ben Bolch of the LA Times that he was “very shocked” by his dismissal, which he was notified of at the end of March. He also hinted at some displeasure over the way Alford handled the situation and pointed to his recruiting successes to justify his surprise.
Spoke with David Grace. He said he was notified shortly before the Final Four that he would not be retained despite his massive recruiting success over his five years as a UCLA assistant: "To contribute the way I did and feel like this was happening just blows my mind."
David Grace on what Steve Alford told him about not being retained at UCLA: "He said that Dan [Guerrero] wanted to make the change and the next day I talked to Dan and Dan said he never told him to make a coaching change, so I don’t know where that came from."
David Grace on his dismissal at UCLA: "I was very shocked and [Alford] even said I’d done a great job and he just wanted to go a different direction. He even prayed about it in the thing. He wanted to pray about it when he was telling me I had to get another job."
David Grace continued on his dismissal: "This was a tremendous shock, the fact that the job I was given to be as the recruiting recruiting coordinator, four of the five years we had top-five recruiting classes. That didn’t always happen there and it’s definitely a shame."
Grace arrived at UCLA in 2013, the same time Alford was hired as head coach. Among the recruits he successfully lured to Westwood were Zach LaVine, Kevon Looney, Lonzo Ball, Aaron Holiday, Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes, and most recently, Shareef O’Neal. Should the Bruins be unable to compensate for Grace’s recruiting talents, Alford may just end up losing even more support.
Rooting for a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble is a unique experience. Unlike any other sport, teams on the fringes of success pray for a chance to keep playing, with only so much control over the situation. Sure, they could win their conference tournaments, but many face long roads and brutal opponents between themselves and a conference tourney title.
Unlike the first college football team left out of the playoff, most of these teams are supremely flawed. They didn’t win their conference and weren’t ranked near the top of the polls all year. These are teams that just want a chance to prove they aren’t mediocre and make some noise in March. With conference tournaments very much underway, here’s our look at 11 bubble teams hanging on by a thread. Some have a chance to earn their way, but others are already at home, watching and hoping.
1. Notre Dame
The Irish are one of the most interesting bubble teams in years. Notre Dame is only 20-14 on the season, but lost nine of those games without star forward Bonzie Colson. The Irish were also without the services of point guard Matt Farrell in four of the games they lost without Colson. The selection committee has long claimed to take injuries into consideration. Notre Dame will put that theory to the test. Colson and Farrell are both back in the lineup, leading to a win over Virginia Tech early in the conference tournament. The Irish then lost to Duke Thursday, which would have been the kind of win to earn them a bid. Now, like the other teams listed here, they wait.
Consistent defense continues to be an issue for UCLA, and Bruins head coach Steve Alford knows it.
UCLA lost at Utah 84-78 on Thursday night. The Bruins allowed the Utes to shoot 52.7 percent from the field for the game. There was a period in the final six minutes of the first half where Utah made five straight threes to build a lead (they went into halftime up 47-40).
After the game, Alford pointed to the defensive lapses by the Bruins and said that was preventing the team from taking the next step.
Steve Alford: "I think this has been a team that, for 30 to 32 minutes, has proven that they can really defend. But what they’ve got to grow and mature into is a team that can prove they can do it for 40 and we don’t always do that."
Steve Alford, asked about defense still being an issue: "Well, that’s what’s keeping us from going over the top. What are we, 19-9 and 10-6? We’ve had a very solid year, it’s been very, very good, but to take that next step we’ve got to be able to defend for 40 minutes."
UCLA and Utah both now have 10-6 conference records in what’s been a down season for the Pac-12. Arizona is the only ranked team from the conference. The Bruins visit Colorado on Sunday, while Utah gets USC on Saturday.
The third player involved in the legal issues, LiAngelo Ball, is no longer with the program. Perhaps father LaVar had an inkling that something like this was coming. LiAngelo would have almost certainly been subjected to the same punishment had he not been pulled out of school. Instead, he and his younger brother will be playing overseas in the new year.
UCLA’s athletic department is trying to show some appreciation for the firefighters who have been working so hard to battle all the fires in the state.
The UCLA Athletics Twitter account announced on Wednesday that the school is offering two free tickets to all California firefighters who want to attend one of the Bruins’ last four men’s basketball games in December.
For all the hard work of our California firefighters, all California firefighters will receive 2 free tickets to their choice of one of the last 4 @UCLAMBB games in the month of December.#GoBruinspic.twitter.com/G5BE5mzqts
Firefighters who want to take advantage of the offer would have their choice of attending UCLA’s games against Cincinnati, South Dakota, Washington State or Washington. The games against Cincinnati and Washington are probably most appealing of the four.
Going back to last week, fires have broken out throughout Southern California. Many of the ones in the Los Angeles area, including one nearby UCLA, are nearly contained, but one in Ventura County has been spreading up towards Santa Barbara and causing damage. New fires have also broken out in San Diego. On top of the Southern California fires, there were awful fires in Northern California in October that caused 44 deaths and billions of dollars in destruction.
UCLA held a press conference on Wednesday to address the shoplifting incident that resulted in three players being arrested in China last week, and head coach Steve Alford revealed that the freshmen have been suspended indefinitely from the program.
Alford said the amount of games LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill will miss has not been determined.
Steve Alford: Indefinite suspensions for the UCLA three. At some point they may rejoin practices and team meetings, but they'll have to earn their way back.
Alford and UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero noted that the three players seemed genuinely remorseful, and it sounds as though they will be back with the team at some point. All three apologized for their actions and thanked U.S. president Donald Trump for his assistance in resolving the matter.
LiAngelo Ball: "I'd like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the stores in China. I didn't exercise my best judgment and I was wrong for that. … I'm a young man, however, it's not an excuse for making such a stupid decision."
Donald Trump gets his thank you from UCLA's Cody Riley: "To President Trump and the United States government, we really appreciate you taking the time on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out."
Guerrero confirmed that the players stole from three stores and said the charges against against them were dropped.
Shoplifting is a serious offense in China and can result in up to 10 years in prison, so the players were fortunate to have gotten off with a slap on the wrist. LaVar Ball may have tried to downplay his son’s arrest initially, but it would appear UCLA is taking it seriously.
The Three UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting in China last week received some assistance from Donald Trump in resolving their case, and the U.S. president would like it if the young men showed their appreciation.
UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were finally allowed to leave China on Tuesday after they were basically under house arrest for a week at their hotel. Trump spoke directly with Chinese president Xi Jinping to help settle the issue, and all the charges have reportedly been dropped. Trump says the three players were facing as much as 10 years in jail, and he wants some credit for helping out.
Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!
You didn’t think Mr. President would pass up an opportunity to toot his own horn, did you?
Shoplifting is a serious offense in China, and surveillance footage reportedly proved that the three UCLA players stole from three high-end stores at a shopping center. Other than being ripped on national television by a UCLA legend, they really haven’t faced any consequences. Like it or not, all indications are that Trump had a lot to do with that.
The three UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting in China last week were finally allowed to return home on Tuesday, and it appears as though they will be coming back to the United States with no blemishes on their official police records.
According to a report from Mark Dreyer of China Sports Insider, all of the charges against UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill have been dropped. The players were permitted to leave the country on Tuesday after being placed under a version of house arrest at their hotel for a week, and Dreyer reports that they were not officially deported or escorted to the airport.
U.S. president Donald Trump arrived in China for a two-day stay the day after the arrests took place, and he spoke with Chinese president Xi Jinping about resolving the case. Sources told ESPN’s Arash Markazi that Trump’s involvement helped expedite the process, though there was never any real chance of the players serving jail time.
My sources on this story had said from the beginning that the players would only be in Hangzhou for a week, maybe two. There was never a chance of a lengthy stay or prison term. Trump's involvement, I'm told, expedited their release. There was no need to make this a bigger story.
The three players are fortunate to have avoided legal trouble after surveillance footage reportedly showed them shoplifting from three high-end stores, but they could still face disciplinary action from UCLA. The school has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday, during which Ball, Riley and Hill are expected to give statements. The three were already ripped on national television by one UCLA legend and are sure to face much more criticism.
The three UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting in China last week were on a plane home to Los Angeles Tuesday morning, and it sounds as though the case has reached a resolution.
In a statement, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott confirmed that UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were flying home from China and thanked the Chinese authorities for the way they handled the incident.
The three freshmen were arrested last Tuesday after surveillance footage reportedly proved that they had stolen items from three high-end stores at a shopping center in Hangzhou. Shoplifting is a serious offense in China and can result in up to 10 years in prison. The players had been on a version of house arrest for the past week at the hotel where the team stayed.
As Scott mentioned in his statement, U.S. president Donald Trump spoke with Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart, during a two-day stay in China last week. All indications are that the players are going to get a slap on the wrist, though they have already been ripped on national television by one UCLA legend and are likely to face disciplinary action from the university.