The three UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting in China last week remained in the country as of Monday, but their case could be nearing a resolution.
David Nakamura of the Washington Post reports that Donald Trump has personally asked Chinese president Xi Jinping for help resolving the case. The three UCLA freshmen were arrested the day before Trump arrived in Beijing for a two-day stay, and the U.S. president was reportedly assured that Xi will personally look into the case and make sure it is resolved fairly and in a timely fashion.
One U.S. official told Nakamura that the charges against the three players — LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill — have already been reduced.
The latest reports indicate that surveillance footage proves Ball, Riley and Hill stole from three stores inside a shopping center in Hangzhou. The situation was taken seriously enough that the players were prohibited from flying back to the U.S. with the UCLA team, and they have been placed under a version of house arrest at their hotel.
If nothing else, the shoplifting incident will end up being a huge embarrassment for the players, their families and the university. UCLA legend Bill Walton already ripped the players on national television, and they are sure to face plenty more criticism when they return home.
LiAngelo Ball and his two UCLA teammates accused of shoplifting in China will reportedly avoid the worst punishment for their actions, but could still be punished for their actions.
A source told Ken Sugiara of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the three UCLA players — Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley — will face 20 days of house arrest and then will be barred from visiting the country again.
The house arrest could be served at the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou, which is where the Bruins team has been staying on their trip to China.
It’s not nothing, but 20 days of house arrest in a hotel is certainly a much better outcome for Ball and his teammates than the prison time they could have reportedly faced. This seems like about the best-case scenario for the players, although it remains to be seen whether they’ll face any repercussions from the school itself once they’ve served their time in China.
The U.S. State Department is aware that LiAngelo Ball and two of his UCLA teammates have been arrested in China for shoplifting, and they’re ready to step in and help if called upon.
“We are aware of reports of three U.S. citizens arrested and subsequently released on bail in China,” a State Department official told TMZ Sports on Wednesday. “We stand ready to provide appropriate consular assistance for U.S. citizens. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”
Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were arrested early on Tuesday morning in the city of Hangzhou and accused of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to their hotel.
The trio has since been released on bail, but ordered to stay at the hotel as the legal process, which could take upwards of 37 days, plays itself out. If convicted, the three could face anywhere from 3-10 years in a Chinese prison.
On Wednesday, UCLA head coach Steve Alford said the three freshmen will not play when the Bruins open their season on Saturday against Georgia Tech.
“The university came out with a statement, so I won’t have any further comment on this other than in answering that question — those individuals won’t play on Saturday,” Alford said via the Associated Press.
LiAngelo’s father, LaVar, was initially scheduled to hold a press conference to discuss the arrest on Wednesday morning, but cancelled on the advice of legal counsel.
UCLA’s basketball players had a pair of surprise visitors to their summer basketball workout.
Kanye West and 2 Chainz made an appearance at the workout, and West, at the very least, was happy to greet the players.
Get Right for the Summer Workout …
featuring Kanye West and 2 Chainz pic.twitter.com/bzUPh6cEMJ
— UCLA Basketball (@UCLAMBB) July 3, 2017
A UCLA spokesperson told CBS Sports’s Gary Parrish that West had been playing in the gym before UCLA’s players arrived, and greeted them when they did.
“A lot of our guys listen to his music, so it was a cool thing for them,” the spokesperson said. “We sometimes get celebrities on our campus, and you never know how they’re going to be. But, honestly, Kanye was super-friendly with our guys. I was impressed.”
It’s no secret that Kanye loves his basketball. He does have a reputation for being a bit surly sometimes, though, so it’s good that the UCLA players got a cool experience out of it.
The Pac-12 apparently had to speak to UCLA about the actions of the school’s mascot during Thursday’s basketball game against Oregon.
The Bruins came back to beat the Ducks 82-79 after trailing for most of the game. They had the help of their home crowd at Pauley Pavilion, as well as the efforts of mascot Joe Bruin.
During the final minute of the game, Oregon’s Jordan Bell was at the line to attempt his second of two free throws when Joe Bruin turned around, dropped shorts and pretended to moon the junior forward.
BEAR BUTT pic.twitter.com/6CHQXm2jwx
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) February 10, 2017
Despite Joe Bruin’s funny distraction attempt, Bell made the free throw. UCLA still won the game.
The Pac-12 ended up addressing the actions of Joe Bruin with the school, according to the LA Times’ Ben Bolch.
Update on Joe Bruingate: The Pac-12 spoke with UCLA, who agreed the incident shouldn't have happened and won't happen again.
— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) February 11, 2017
If the Pac-12 thinks that represents inappropriate mascot conduct, then I’d really like to know what they think of this old video of Oregon’s mascot.
- UCLA Basketball
Walton called the UCLA-Cal basketball game for ESPN2 on Thursday, a game which Cal won 75-63. It turns out the Golden Bears had some motivation from Big Red.
From the game recap:
California raced out to a 13-1 start behind a pair of 3-pointers from Brown following a pregame pep talk from ESPN analyst Bill Walton and strong defense that forced UCLA to miss its first five shots and commit three turnovers before Hamilton made a floater to end the drought.
“He gives the best motivational speeches I’ve ever heard,” Brown said. “He just got me so pumped up for the game I think I came out and scored eight in a row. It was all Bill Walton right there.”
That’s Cal’s Jayden Brown, who had 16 points in the game, talking about Walton.
Walton is one of UCLA’s most famous basketball alumni along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was a three-time College Player of the Year for the Bruins and led the program to two national championships. And here he is, one of the most prominent athletes in the school’s history, giving pep talks firing up opponents to beat his school.
Is this Walton’s way of expressing displeasure with Bruins head coach Steve Alford? We know Walton was hypercritical of Ben Howland during the coach’s final few seasons coaching the Bruins, helping to put the nail in Howland’s coffin. Between this and what Kareem said about Alford, UCLA seems to have made enemies out of what should be its greatest allies.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lobbied to get the UCLA head coaching job two years ago that eventually went to Steve Alford. Two years later, Abdul-Jabbar is being critical of Alford’s leadership of the program that the former star center helped make great in the ’60s.
Abdul-Jabbar was a guest on SiriusXM NBA Radio’s “Off the Dribble” and expressed his disappointment with the state of the Bruins’ program.
“It was real ugly. I watched them in the playoffs,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “They don’t even know how to run the fast break. I’m not trying to sit on the sideline and throw stones at Coach Alford — he has a tough job. But people used to learn how to play the game at UCLA, and I don’t think that’s happening now. I think that that’s a real disappointment to those of us who are part of the tradition.”
I’m not trying to throw stones at Alford, but I’m going to point out everything he hasn’t done well. Someone is talking out of both sides of his mouth here, and I think it’s the 7-foot-2 guy in the room.
Look, as a Bruin alum, I wasn’t happy with the Alford hiring to begin with, so you can imagine my dissatisfaction with the program following a 22-14 season last year (lucky run to the Sweet 16 included). I agree with Kareem that the program should be in better shape and that they could do better than Alford. But some of Abdul-Jabbar’s criticism seems to be motivated by his bitterness over not being considered for the position. If he thinks he could do better or connect well with young players and recruits, he has another thing coming.
Overall, I do agree with his assessment of the team and wish they had another coach, but you better believe I don’t want it to be Kareem and his uncongenial personality.