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Three UCLA Basketball Players Arrested in China

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UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley & Jalen Hill have been arrested for shoplifting in China.

2017 CIF State Boys Open Division Championship - Chino Hills v Bishop Montgomery Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

The UCLA men’s basketball team arrived in China late Sunday for a basketball tournament and week long trip that culminates with a game against Georgia Tech. The trip will not go on as planned for three Bruin freshmen.

LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill were arrested for shoplifting. All three freshman were top recruits coming out of high school.

What will the legal and athletic ramifications of their actions be? It’s too early to tell as many of the important details are still unknown.

UPDATE (1:24 pm): ESPN has more details including the following statement issued by UCLA:

"We are aware of a situation involving UCLA student-athletes in Hangzhou, China. The University is cooperating fully with local authorities on this matter, and we have no further comment at this time."

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman writes:

One source told ESPN that nearly 20 police officers came into the Hyatt Hangzhou at approximately 8 a.m. local time Tuesday and spoke to multiple players from both Georgia Tech and UCLA. The players, according to the source, were kept in a room for hours and not allowed to speak to any of the coaches.

UPDATE (2:00 pm): It looks like more details are coming from Georgia Tech, as three of their players were involved in the incident and cleared. According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, both Georgia Tech and UCLA were headed to practices, but were diverted. Chinese police inspected the cargo area of the UCLA bus, and after a delay, all team members got off and were taken back into their hotel. Georgia Tech players were diverted to a study hall, and according to a statement from Georgia Tech team spokesman:

“During the questioning, it was determined that Georgia Tech student-athletes were not involved in the activities being investigated,” the statement read. “They will rejoin the team on Tuesday and resume their scheduled activities in advance of Saturday’s season opener vs. UCLA in Shanghai.”

UPDATE (2:58 pm): ESPN now reporting that the players are being questioned about stealing from a Louis Vuitton store that is located next to the team hotel.

UPDATE (4:27 pm): ESPN is reporting that LaVar, Tina and LaMelo Ball were having breakfast with the team at the UCLA team hotel in Shanghai on Wednesday morning.

UPDATE (5:13 pm): LaVar refused to provide ESPN with a comment at this time.

UPDATE (7:20 pm): LaVar Ball was supposed to hold a press conference Wednesday morning local time in Shanghai. That press conference has been pushed back.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has issued the following statement:

We are very disappointed by any situation that detracts from the positive student-athlete educational and cultural experience that this week is about. Whether in the United States or abroad, we expect our student-athletes to uphold the highest standards. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports is reporting that “a lawyer familiar with Chinese law who communicated with Yahoo Sports on the condition of anonymity because he doesn’t want to speak out about the Chinese government” believes the threesome could face between 3 and 10 years in prison.

The Yahoo article also reports that they could be detained for more than a month without bail before Chinese authorities decide to press charges or indict them. The report also mentions that Chinese prosecutors have a 99.2% conviction rate of those who are indicted.

Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel quotes William Nee, a Hong Kong-based researcher of the Chinese court system for Amnesty International:

I would say they could be in quite a bit of trouble if they have solid proof that they shoplifted. However, part of it will depend on whether their lawyers, the university, or the U.S. consulate can advocate and negotiate on their behalf.

UPDATE (7:48 pm): Well, LaVar Ball got smart advice from legal counsel and he’s keeping his big mouth shut for once. That right there explains the seriousness of this situation.

UPDATE (9:31 pm): ESPN now has a brief quote from LaVar Ball. ESPN’s article has added:

As he was leaving the hotel later Wednesday, LaVar Ball said: "I'm going to wait until I get some more intel on what's going on, and then I can tell you what's up."

Asked if he was worried about LiAngelo, Ball said, "He'll be fine. He'll be fine. Everybody making it a big deal; it ain't that big of a deal."

Here’s video from ESPN’s Arash Markazi which includes LaVar’s comments.

UPDATE (11/8/17 12:30 am PT): ESPN’s Arash Markazi tweeted a brief statement from LaVar.