UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill have returned home from China where they were held for shoplifting. Though they were able to avoid jail time, the players have been suspended from the basketball team indefinitely. They will not be able to travel, suit up for road games or take part in practice while the school performs a review of the situation.
"They will have to earn their way back," UCLA coach Steve Alford said during a news conference Wednesday.
The players allegedly stole sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team's hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins were staying before leaving for Shanghai for a game against Georgia Tech on Friday. They were held and questioned before being released on bail early Wednesday morning and had been staying at a lakeside hotel in Hangzhou since then.
President Donald Trump, who was already on an Asia trip, spoke to President Xi Jinping of China about the incident, and the players were allowed to return to the United States on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, Trump asked on Twitter if the players would thank him for getting them released as they were facing 10 years in jail.
During a press conference Wednesday morning, the players apologized for their actions, and all three players, Alford, and UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero did offer their thanks to the president.
"These are good young men who have exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment, and now they have to live with that," Alford said.
"I didn't exercise my best judgment, and I'm sorry for that," Ball said. "This does not define who I am," he added. "My family raised me better than that."
"I'd also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well," Ball said.
Riley said, "To President Trump and the United States government: Thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out."
"Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home," Hill said.
Riley said that he was "embarrassed and ashamed."
"I take full responsibility for the mistake I have made -- shoplifting," he said. "I know that this goes beyond me letting my school down. I let the entire country down."
Hill made a point of apologizing to fans.
"What I did was stupid. There's no other way to put it. I'm not that type of person," he added.
Guerrero offered some details on the incident, saying that the players stole from three stores, were arrested and posted bail of about $2,200. That money has since been refunded as charges were withdrawn. He also said that the players had to surrender their passports and were under some travel restrictions after being arrested. The government, however, did not confine them to their hotel, that was the school's decision.
All five people at the news conference also thanked the Chinese police and government for their handling of the situation.
Alford said that the players may be able to return to workouts, practices and team meetings, but "that timeline has yet to be determined."
"They will cooperate fully with the university review of the matter and will use this time to focus on their academics," he said. "My expectation is that they will work hard to demonstrate why they deserve to be a part of this program."