Police in Hangzhou, a city in eastern China near Shanghai, have released from custody three college students from the United States. The trio were participating in an overseas basketball competition when they were charged with shoplifting. The were charged with stealing from a luxury Louis Vuitton store and must now remain in China for further processing. The rest of the UCLA basketball team returned to Los Angeles on Saturday. LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley remained in Hangzhou. Earlier Saturday, the UCLA squad won its season-opening game 63-60 over Georgia Tech in Shanghai.

Ball is the brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. Hill, Ball, and Riley did not participate in the victory over Georgia Tech.

ESPN reports that the three teammates could be Hangzhou for "a week or two" while the situation is resolved. According to ESPN, surveillance footage showed the players shoplifting from three stores inside a high-end retail center. They are alleged to have stolen designer sunglasses, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Bruins coach Steve Alford declined to discuss the matter. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, athletic director Dan Guerrero, and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott travelled with the team. Scott said in a statement, “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."

Next year, California and Yale will meet in the Pac-12 China game to open the 2018-19 season.

The three freshmen will remain in Hangzhou for at least a week, and possibly longer, at a $300-a-night luxury hotel. They were arrested on November 7 and released the next day, but were told to stay put pending the results of the investigation. "I ain't got nothing to say," said Ball, adding, "They don't want us to talk," as cited by the Los Angeles Times.

On his swing through Asia, President Donald Trump personally asked Chinese president Xi Jinping to help resolve the case of the three basketball players. This was confirmed by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. During his two-day state visit to Beijing, arriving a day after the three freshman players were accused of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team's hotel. Trump raised the matter, which Xi promised to look into. Chief of Staff John Kelly has been in contact with the players' families and has spoken with UCLA Coach Steve Alford. 



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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