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Three UCLA basketball players returning home from China

Tuesday - 14/11/2017 14:29
SportsPulse: President Trump reportedly helped to facilitate the release of three UCLA players who were arrested in China for shoplifting, including Lavar Ball's son, LiAngelo Ball. USA TODAY Sports

The three UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting in China last week are flying back home to Los Angeles and "the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of Chinese authorities," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement Tuesday morning.

"We are all very pleased that these young men have been allowed to return home to their families and university," Scott said in the statement. "We are grateful for the role that our Chinese hosts played, and for the courtesy and professionalism of the local authorities. 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 U.S. State Department for their efforts towards resolution."

LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, and his two teammates were flying home less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump confirmed to reporters that he had spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, about the players' situation.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report that the players were seen in a Shanghai airport checking in to a flight bound for Los Angeles on Tuesday.

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Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were accused of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel in Hangzhou, China, last week. The three players were arrested and questioned by Chinese police, then released on bail and allowed to return to their hotel, where they remained as an investigation unfolded, according to ESPN.

President Trump addressed the situation aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, before leaving Manila and wrapping up his five-nation tour in Asia. He told reporters that Xi had "been terrific on that subject," and he hoped the trio would be returning to the United States soon.

"When I heard about it two days ago, I had a great conversation with President Xi," Trump said, according to a pool report from Air Force One. "What they did was unfortunate. You know, you're talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games."

President Trump's personal involvement was first reported by The Washington Post on Monday.

The UCLA basketball team traveled to China to play Georgia Tech in this year's Pac-12 China game, which the Bruins won, 63-60. The rest of the team returned to the U.S. on Saturday.

It is unclear whether the three players will be punished by the university or conference upon their return.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@gannett.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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Source: USA Today:

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