UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who have been detained in China for the past week on suspicion of shoplifting, are headed back to the United States and are scheduled to arrive later Tuesday in Los Angeles, the Pac-12 confirmed.
The players were seen checking into a Los Angeles-bound Delta flight at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, airline staff told The Wall Street Journal, who first reported that the players were heading back to the U.S.
Delta’s flight tracker currently shows that two planes departed from Shanghai at around the same time Tuesday night local time, and both are scheduled to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport at around 5 p.m. PT.
Their return came hours after President Donald Trump said he was hopeful that they would be allowed to return home after he had a long conversation with China’s president, Xi Jinping.
“They’re working on it right now,” Trump told reporters in the Philippines as he prepared to return to Washington after a nearly two-week visit to Asia that included an earlier stop in Beijing. “He’s been terrific,” Trump said, in an apparent reference to Xi.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement that “the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chinese authorities. We are all very pleased that these young men have been allowed to return home to their families and university.
“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.”
The players were questioned last week about allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins had been staying before leaving for Shanghai to face Georgia Tech on Saturday. They were released on bail early Wednesday morning and have been staying at a lakeside hotel in Hangzhou since then.
Asked about the case Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry said it had no additional comment. On Monday, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that three American men were being investigated in the eastern city of Hangzhou for alleged theft and that China and the U.S. were in contact over the matter.
An anonymous U.S. official told The Washington Post that charges against the three players have been reduced.
A source told ESPN’s Arash Markazi that there is surveillance footage of the players shoplifting from three stores inside a high-end shopping center, which houses Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Salvatore Ferragamo stores.
UCLA returned to the United States on Saturday without the three freshmen, sources told Markazi. Bruins coach Steve Alford declined to discuss the matter after the team’s win over the Yellow Jackets on Friday.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.