Three freshmen on the UCLA men’s basketball team were arrested after allegedly shoplifting in the Chinese city of Hangzhou just days ahead of their scheduled season opener, according to ESPN.
The sports network, citing a source with firsthand knowledge, said LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were released on bail after being questioned about stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near the team hotel.
ESPN’s LA-based reporter Arash Markazi is covering the team from China.
UCLA is in China for a week-long visit and is scheduled to open its season in Shanghai on Saturday against Georgia Tech.
When asked about the arrests at a news conference, UCLA Coach Steve Alford said the players in question would not play in Saturday’s game.
Ball’s father LaVar, who is in China, released a statement on social media naming the players.
“Ball, Riley and Hill are being required by Hangzhou police to remain at their hotel until the legal process is over, which could take days, weeks or even months,” he said. “The hope is obviously sooner rather than later.”
LiAngelo Ball is a younger brother of former UCLA star Lonzo Ball, now a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In a statement on Weibo earlier Wednesday, LaVar Ball called the incident “unfortunate to both the Ball family and UCLA.”
Cooperation and consternation
UCLA, one of the United States’ premier college basketball programs, says the university is cooperating fully with local authorities.
“We are aware of the matter involving UCLA student-athletes in Hangzhou, China and we are gathering more information,” UCLA Associate Director of Athletic Communications Alex Timiraos said in a statement.
Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pacific 12 Conference, of which UCLA is a member, said in a statement that the student-athletes “were involved in a situation” and were cooperating with local authorities.
“We are very disappointed by any situation that detracts from the positive student-athlete educational and cultural experience that this week is about,” the statement said. “Whether in the United States or abroad, we expect our student-athletes to uphold the highest standards.”
News of the incident broke as US President Donald Trump landed in China, part of a trip to five Asian nations.A spokesperson from the US State Department told CNN it is “aware of reports of three US citizens arrested in China. We stand ready to provide appropriate consular assistance for US citizens.”
Due to privacy considerations, the State Department declined to comment further.
The UCLA team was in Hangzhou to visit the headquarters of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant which is sponsoring Friday’s game.
Chinese officials wouldn’t confirm the ESPN report that Ball, Riley and Hill were arrested. Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said the case had been reported to US authorities.
“China is handling this case in accordance with the law, and will guarantee the rights in accordance with the law, for those involved in this case,” she said.
The Ball family
LiAngelo Ball, a freshman, is the middle child of LaVar and Tina Ball. Their youngest son, LaMelo Ball, is in high school.