Trump exhorts UCLA trio to thank Xi for release in China

Trump exhorts UCLA trio to thank Xi for release in China

President Donald Trump spoke to reporters on Tuesday regarding LiAngelo Ball and two UCLA Bruins basketball teammates who were accused of shoplifting on a team trip in China.

Unaware of the episode, the Chinese president dispatched an aide to get more information.

Before the players' release, LiAngelo Ball's father, LaVar, had said in a statement on social media that the Chinese judicial process could take months.

Three UCLA basketball players who were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting while on a tour of China last week are headed back to the United States.

Trump confirmed that he had spoken to Xi about the players, saying he was "terrific", but also noting the seriousness of what the situation.

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The players were detained in Hangzhou for questioning following allegations of shoplifting last week before the Bruins beat Georgia Tech in their season-opening game in Shanghai. They stayed in China as their team returned to the United States over the weekend.

The criminal charges against them have all been dropped, although all three players admitted their guilt. It also helps that US Chief of Staff John F. Kelly remains in personal contact with Chinese authorities and the families of the players. And at a press conference later in the day, Ball, Hill, Riley and coach Steve Alford did in fact thank the president by name, in addition to the U.S. State Department and others. "We're very disappointed in the conduct of our three student-athletes".

"What they did was unfortunate", he added. China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the Associated Press on Monday that the three men were being investigated for alleged theft and that China and the US were in contact about the matter. LaVar Ball and his youngest son, LaMelo, are expected to be in Hong Kong Tuesday evening to promote a pop-up shop for the family's athletic apparel line, Big Baller Brand.

Xi assured Trump that the players would be treated fairly and expeditiously, the Post reported.

The elder Ball has become a media personality by aggressively promoting his sons as future National Basketball Association superstars and had travelled to China on the trip to promote his Big Baller Brand shoe and apparel line.

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