UCLA suspends players arrested in China

LiAngelo Ball and two teammates on UCLA’s basketball team — who have been suspended indefinitely — publicly apologized after they shoplifted during a trip to China.

After Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill read statements acknowledging their role in an international incident that caused President Donald Trump to take credit for intervening on their behalf, UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford announced their indefinite suspensions.

“They will have to earn their way back,” Alford said.

Riley, in his statement, said he was embarrassed and ashamed “for disappointing my family, my teammates, my coaches, and the entire UCLA community.”

He said he took “full responsibility for the mistake that I’ve made: shoplifting,” and that his actions went “beyond me letting my school down, but I’ve let my country down.”

“To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf,” he added. “We really appreciate you helping us out.”

Earlier in the day, Trump had tweeted: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

Ball apologized to his family and teammates, calling the incident a “stupid mistake” and saying he had “learned my lesson.”

Hill, too, apologized to his teammates and family.

“What I did was stupid. There’s no other way to put it,” he said.

Ball, Riley and Hill were allowed to leave China after the situation was “resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities,” said Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12 athletic conference, of which UCLA is a member.

The three were arrested last week while their team was in the city of Hangzhou ahead of the squad’s season opener in Shanghai. They were questioned on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel.

Athletic Director Dan Guerrero confirmed the trio shoplifted from three stores.

The three had stayed at the hotel, reportedly awaiting next steps in their case, while their teammates went to Shanghai, where UCLA defeated Georgia Tech 63-60 on Saturday. They stayed in China as their team returned to the United States over the weekend.

School officials said the charges were withdrawn by Chinese authorities after the players admitted guilt. A conviction of grand larceny in China could result in years of prison. But Trump said Tuesday that he had asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help.

UCLA’s trip coincided with Trump’s two-day state visit to the Chinese capital, Beijing, as part of his 13-day trip to Asia. Trump told reporters that Xi had been helpful in working to resolve the case.

Scott acknowledged Trump, among others, in his statement.

“We are grateful for the role that our Chinese hosts played, and for the courtesy and professionalism of the local authorities,” Scott said. “We also want to acknowledge UCLA’s significant efforts on behalf of their student athletes.

“Finally, we want to thank the President, the White House and the US State Department for their efforts towards resolution.”

Trump’s request was first reported by the Washington Post.

The Bruins, ranked 23rd nationally, will play a home game Wednesday night against Central Arkansas.

Days before the game in Shanghai, the Bruins were in Hangzhou to visit the headquarters of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant that sponsored Saturday’s contest.

The game was the culmination of a weeklong cultural and sports exchange involving the student athletes.

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.

LaVar Ball and his youngest son, LaMelo, were in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening to promote a pop-up shop for the family’s athletic apparel line, Big Baller Brand.

LaVar, LaMelo and Tina Ball — the family’s matriarch — all went to China to watch LiAngelo play his first game as a Bruin and promote the opening of a Big Baller Brand pop-up shop in Shanghai.

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High school basketball star gunned down in Miami

A South Florida high school basketball star was gunned down over the weekend in Miami.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokesman John Schuster confirmed Monday that Malcolm Nicholas III, 18, was a former student-athlete at Miami Senior High School when his father was an assistant principal at the school.

The shooting guard also attended Mater Academy Charter and Believe Prep Academy before transferring to a school in Tennessee to hone his skills. 

Relatives said Nicholas was in town for a family party and to celebrate Thanksgiving when he was killed.  

Miami police Officer Christopher Bess said the shooting was reported at 7:14 p.m. Sunday in the 1700 block of Northwest Fifth Avenue.

“I was in the house and my mom called me. She heard gunshots,” Nicholas’s cousin, Devondre Hopkins, said. 

Bess said officers found the young man suffering from gunshot wounds.

Nicholas was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, where he died.

“(It was a case of) mistaken identity,” Hopkins said. “He doesn’t do anything. He plays basketball. He came down from school to go to one of his family member’s party.”

Many people were remembering Nicholas on social media for both his athletic ability and his pleasant demeanor.

Believe Academy tweeted its condolences to Nicholas’s family, adding, “Malcolm — May your bright smile forever shine down from the heavens above. God Bless.”

According to Nicholas’s Twitter page, the student-athlete decided in July to transfer to Believe Prep Academy after consulting with his family and coaches. His cousin said he later transferred to a special school in Tennessee. 

According to 247sports.com, Nicholas had offers to play for the Eastern Michigan Eagles and the IUPUI Jaguars.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. A reward of up to $3,000 is offered for information that leads to an arrest. 

Our thoughts and prayers to the family/friends of Malcolm Nicholas, Jr. @Gods_Gift_2017_ Our hearts go out to you. You will truly be missed!

— Believe Academy (@BelievePrep) November 13, 2017

Malcolm – May your bright smile forever shine down from the heavens above. God Bless #Believe #Family https://t.co/KduwDgEAA4

— Believe Academy (@BelievePrep) November 13, 2017

With a heavy heart we lose a beautiful soul & gain an angel. Our condolences go out to your family, Malcolm. May you Rest In Peace. If anyone has any information, we urge you to please contact @MDCrimeStoppers https://t.co/H4QfXYeGSq

— Miami Senior High (@miamiseniorhigh) November 13, 2017

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Three freshmen on the UCLA men’s basketball team accused of shoplifting in the Chinese city of Hangzhou could be months away from returning home while the legal process in their case plays out.ESPN, citing a source with firsthand knowledge, reported We…

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