LOS ANGELES — The UCLA basketball team is heading back to Los Angeles without three players arrested on shoplifting charges in China, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Saturday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were to remain in Hangzhou, China, while the rest of the team was due back Saturday night. Ball is the brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball.
UCLA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by the AP.
CBSSports.com points out that although the UCLA trio is out on bond, they are essentially being held on house arrest by Hangzhou police, which are requiring them to remain at the hotel until the legal process is over.
No. 21 UCLA won its season-opening game 63-60 over Georgia Tech in Shanghai earlier Saturday.
The trio was questioned by police about allegedly stealing from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou last week, where the Bruins visited before leaving for Shanghai.
Citing a source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation, ESPN reports the players could be Hangzhou for “a week or two” while the situation is resolved. The source told ESPN there is surveillance footage of the players shoplifting from three stores inside a high-end retail center.
Earlier, video captured by ESPN shows Ball’s father, LaVar — who was traveling with the team in Shanghai — downplayed the severity of the situation.
“It’ll be fine, it’ll be fine. Everybody is making a big deal, it ain’t that big of a deal,” LaVar Ball said.
Bruins coach Steve Alford declined to discuss the matter after the team’s victory. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, athletic director Dan Guerrero and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott have been traveling with the team, but only Scott has issued any statements.
“It has provided a real distraction and unwanted publicity, which distracts from what overall has been a tremendous experience and a tremendous week for the UCLA and Georgia Tech students,” Scott said before the game. “We’ve had a chance to apologize for the unwelcome attention it has brought. There’s nothing new. We’re monitoring the situation and staying in close contact with the students, and we hope the situation resolves itself soon.”
“According to Chinese exit law, a case must be fully resolved before the suspects are allowed to eventually go home,” said William Nee, an expert on China for Amnesty International. “It could be days, it could be weeks it could be months, theoretically speaking even years until they are allowed to leave China.”
The conference said Friday that California and Yale will meet in next year’s Pac-12 China game to open the 2018-19 season.