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UCLA Players Apologize for Shoplifting in China, Thank Trump

UCLA basketball player Cody Riley, left, reads his statement as he is joined by teammates LiAngelo Ball, center, and Jalen Hill during a news conference at UCLA, Nov. 15, 2017, in Los Angeles.

Three UCLA basketball players who had been detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting admitted Wednesday that they had stolen items from three stores, and they thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for his help in winning their release.

LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill remain suspended from the University of California-Los Angeles basketball team indefinitely, coach Steve Alford said at a news conference.

In their first public comments since being detained, all three apologized and thanked Trump for helping secure their release by raising the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his recent visit.

"I take full responsibility for the mistakes I have made, shoplifting," Riley told reporters. "I know that this goes beyond me letting my school down. I let the entire country down."

Trump had said earlier Wednesday that the players should be grateful for his involvement.

The three basketball players were detained by police November 7 in Hangzhou over allegations of shoplifting and faced charges by Chinese authorities.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said the students were released by the Chinese police a week ago after paying $2,200 bail. But they were not on the team's return flight to the United States on Saturday. They instead landed at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Shanghai on Tuesday evening.

Guerrero said that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had called the students over the weekend to assure them that the government was working on securing their freedom.

After the players' release, Chinese Foreign Ministry officials said the case had been resolved according to law.

The UCLA team had been in China for a game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai on Saturday, which UCLA won 63-60. The teams had traveled to Hangzhou earlier in the week.

The three students, all freshmen, were taken in for questioning by police about alleged shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store, sources previously told Reuters.

According to Guerrero, Chinese police said items were taken from three stores, and they searched the hotel rooms and bags of players on both the UCLA and Georgia Tech teams before identifying the suspects.

"These are good young men who have exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment," Alford said. "I am extremely disappointed in their actions."

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