Trump welcomes UCLA players, credits china president

US President Donald Trump credited China’s President Xi Jinping Thursday with the release of three UCLA basketball players who had been held on suspicion of shoplifting. The three had apologized and thanked Trump for asking Xi to intervene in their case Wednesday on their return to Los Angeles.

“To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You’re welcome and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible and HAVE A GREAT LIFE!” Trump said on Twitter. “Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!” he added.

Trump had personally asked his Chinese counterpart to intervene to free UCLA’s LiAngelo Ball the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie star Lonzo Ball and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who were arrested last Tuesday in Hangzhou.

The trio were held on suspicion of stealing from a Louis Vuitton store and later freed on bail but ordered to remain in the picturesque Chinese city. Shoplifting can bring jail time in China depending on the value of the goods. On Wednesday, all three admitted their guilt at a news conference in Los Angeles, one day after returning home.

Ball told reporters he had not exercised his “best judgement” and vowed never to repeat the “stupid decision” to steal, also thanking Trump, as well as the Chinese police and UCLA. “This does not define who I am. My family raised me better than that and I am going to make myself a better person from here on out,” he added.

UCLA head coach Steve Alford said the trio had been suspended indefinitely and would not travel with the team or suit up for home games. Alford thanked “President Trump and his administration for their nonstop efforts” in resolving the case. Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted about his role in urging Xi to secure the trio’s release.

“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” Trump mused. The case drew greater attention in the United States due to the involvement of Ball, one of three high-profile basketball-playing sons of media personality LaVar Ball.

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