During his visit to Beijing last week, President Donald Trump personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help resolve the case involving three UCLA basketball players who were arrested on shoplifting charges during the team’s trip to China.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed in an email to the Washington Post that Trump “raised the matter” with Xi during his two-day trip to Beijing.
The three players – freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill – have been accused of stealingsunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins were staying before leaving for their game in Shanghai against Georgia Tech.
According to the Post report, Xi promised to look into the legal matter to help ensure the players are treated fairly and expeditiously. Early indications are the charges against the players have been reduced and the case is proceeding toward a resolution.
Ball is the brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie sensation Lonzo Ball and the son of the family’s marketing manager, LaVar Ball. LiAngelo Ball debuted for the Bruins in a Nov. 1 preseason game against Cal State-Los Angeles, scoring 11 points in a 111-80 Bruins’ win.
Lonzo Ball is trying to juggle the pressures of being an NBA rookie with the stress of his brother’s ordeal. He told reporters that he is trying to remain focused on basketball, saying, “I mean, it’s still my little brother, but I got to come out here and play.”
Ball proved he was able to maintain his focus on Saturday, when he became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double by compiling 19 points, 13 assists, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three steals in a record-setting performance against the Milwaukee Bucks.
LaVar Ball, meanwhile, tried to downplay the entire situation, telling Arash Markazi of ESPN, “(LiAngelo) will be fine. Everyone’s making it a big deal. It ain’t that big a deal.”
Former UCLA star and current TV analyst Bill Walton said during the broadcast of the team’s game in China that he was embarrassed by the arrests and apologized “on behalf of the entire human race” for their transgressions.
The team flew back to California without their three freshmen, who face a fine and up to 10 years in prison.
ESPN reported surveillance footage exists of the players shoplifting from three stores inside of a high-end shopping center adjacent to the hotel where UCLA was staying during its trip to China..
The one piece of good news coming out of the trip to China for the Bruins is the fact the team Georgia Tech, 63-60.
(H/T The Wild Card)