James T. Areddy, Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2017
Three UCLA basketball players who had been under police investigation for a week in China flew back home, hours after President Donald Trump said he had requested assistance on their behalf from his counterpart Xi Jinping.
UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley departed from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport late Tuesday on a Delta flight bound for Los Angeles. Their exit came after a week of tension, with the players detained by police in the eastern city of Hangzhou as suspects in an investigation of suspected shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton boutique.
Ending his trip to Asia on Tuesday, Mr. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that in recent days he asked the Chinese president for help. Mr. Trump called the incident unfortunate but said he had had “a great conversation” about the players with China’s leader and hoped they would be leaving soon. “President Xi has been terrific on that subject,” he said.
The shoplifting investigation drew outsize attention because the players are high-profile, especially Mr. Ball, who comes from a prominent sports family with a brother in the National Basketball Association and a media-hungry father, and news of their troubles broke hours before Mr. Xi welcomed Mr. Trump on his first presidential visit to China.