US President Donald Trump said he personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help in the case of three American college basketball players accused of shoplifting last week.
The three UCLA freshmen — LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill — were arrested last week while their team was in Hangzhou ahead of the team’s season opener in Shanghai. They’ve been questioned about stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel.
UCLA’s trip coincided with Trump’s two-day state visit to the Chinese capital, Beijing. Trump told reporters Tuesday that Xi had been helpful in working to resolve the case.
UCLA defeated Georgia Tech 63-60 in what was the season opener for both teams. The game was the culmination of a week-long cultural and sports exchange involving the student athletes.
But Ball — who is the younger brother of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball — Riley and Hill missed the game as they were confined to their hotel as the legal process plays outs.
They did not travel home with the rest of the team and are still believed to be at the hotel.
The men’s college basketball season started earlier this month. The three could miss significant time if the legal proceedings are drawn out. UCLA’s next game is Wednesday against Central Arkansas.
If convicted of grand larceny, the players could face a prison sentence of between three and 10 years, according to Chinese criminal law.
Ball’s father, LaVar, said in a statement on social media that the process could take months. 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.
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.
Trump’s request was first reported by the Washington Post. The President wraps up a 13-day trip to Asia on Tuesday.