BEIJING, China — UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford will sit the three players reportedly involved in a shoplifting incident in China for Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai.
Alford, however, declined to address the issue further.
“The University came out with a statement, so I won’t have any further comment on this other than in answering that question — those individuals won’t play on Saturday,” Alford said Wednesday in Shanghai.
Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement Tuesday night saying that UCLA basketball players were “involved in a situation” in China, with police being summoned to the team’s hotel to investigate the matter.
“UCLA is cooperating fully with local authorities,” Scott said.
Citing a person close to the situation, the Los Angeles Times reported that freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were involved in a shoplifting incident. Ball is the younger brother of Lonzo Ball, the former UCLA star and current Los Angeles Lakers rookie. Their father, LaVar Ball, is also in China and told ESPN that he was “going to wait until I get more intel on what’s going on” before commenting.
Police in Hangzhou did not respond to telephone calls from The Associated Press for details.
Scott did not elaborate on what occurred and said the league was directing all inquiries about the specifics of the matter to UCLA.
“We are very disappointed by any situation that detracts from the positive student-athlete educational and cultural experience that this week is all about,” Scott said. “Whether in the United States or abroad, we expect our student-athletes to uphold the highest standards. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
UCLA team spokesman Alex Timiraos said the school is aware of the situation and is gathering more information.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that local police were called to the hotel where both teams were staying in Hangzhou and inspected UCLA’s bus as players waited to depart for practice. Police interviewed players from both teams before clearing three players from Georgia Tech, according to a statement released by the school.
The teams were staying at the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou on Tuesday before leaving for Shanghai, where Georgia Tech and No. 21 UCLA are set to open the season.
Georgia Tech said its players who were questioned were to rejoin the team and resume their scheduled activities.
The teams are playing at Baoshan Arena in the annual Pac-12 China game, in which a conference school plays another American opponent as part of the league’s global initiative.