UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who had been detained in China for the past week on suspicion of shoplifting, landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening and boarded a van to return to campus.
The basketball players’ return came hours after President Donald Trump said he was hopeful that they would be allowed to return home after he had a long conversation with China’s President Xi Jinping.
“They’re working on it right now,” Trump told reporters in the Philippines, as he prepared to return to Washington after a nearly two-week visit to Asia that included an earlier stop in Beijing.
“He’s been terrific,” Trump said, in an apparent reference to Xi. “… But it was not a good subject. That was not something that should have happened.”
UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block, while saying he was “grateful” that the players were headed home, issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the school will look into the matter and decide what action will be taken. Ball, Riley, Hill, UCLA coach Steve Alford and Bruins athletic director Dan Guerrero will hold a news conference on Wednesday.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement that “the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities. We are all very pleased that these young men have been allowed to return home to their families and university.
“We are grateful for the role that our Chinese hosts played, and for the courtesy and professionalism of the 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 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.
A source told ESPN’s Arash Markazi that there is surveillance footage of the players shoplifting from three stores inside a high-end shopping center, which houses Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Salvatore Ferragamo stores.
An anonymous U.S. official told The Washington Post that charges against the three players have been reduced.
“I want to be clear that we take seriously any violations of the law,” Block, the UCLA chancellor, said in a statement. “We remain one of the world’s top academic institutions in large part because of our values and standards, which we work hard to infuse throughout our campus community.
“When members of the UCLA family fail to uphold these values, we review these incidents with fair and thorough processes. 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.”
The UCLA hoops team returned to the United States on Saturday without the three freshmen. Alford had declined to discuss the matter after the squad’s win over the Yellow Jackets.
UCLA will play its home opener on Wednesday night against Central Arkansas. There was no immediate word on the status of Ball, Riley and Hill for that game.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.