UCLA Players Set To Make First Public Statements

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Three UCLA freshmen basketball players arrested in China on suspicion of shoplifting are scheduled today make their first public statements since they were taken into custody.

LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, who returned to Los Angeles aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Shanghai around 5 p.m. Tuesday, are not planning to take any questions at the 11 a.m. news conference at Pauley Pavilion, according to UCLA.

Basketball coach Steve Alford and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero are also expected to make statements and also planning to take no questions, UCLA said.

Ball, Hill and Riley were greeted at Los Angeles International Airport by a throng of media on their return, but they walked out of the airport without comment and got into a waiting van.

The players were detained Nov. 7 on suspicion of shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team's hotel in Hangzhou. ESPN reported that Chinese authorities had surveillance video of the trio allegedly stealing merchandise from as many as three upscale shops.

The players then appeared to receive uncommonly gentle treatment. They were placed under house arrest at the luxury hotel and were not permitted to play in UCLA's season-opening game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai on Friday.

According to Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott, ``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,'' Scott said Tuesday.

There was no immediate indication on whether the players will face any punishment from the team or the university.

``I want to be clear that we take seriously any violations of the law,'' UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. ``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,'' he said.

``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. Such proceedings are confidential, which limits the specific information that can be shared.''

The players' release followed President Donald Trump's intervention. He said on his way to the United States after 12 days in Asia Tuesday 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.

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

Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner, expressed thanks to Trump and Chinese authorities.

``We are grateful for the role that our Chinese hosts played, and for the courtesy and professionalism of the local authorities,'' Scott said.

``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.''

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