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Trump fires back after LaVar Ball minimizes role in getting UCLA players released

LaVar Ball downplayed President Donald Trump’s role in having his son and two other UCLA basketball players released from custody after a shoplifting incident in China, ESPN reported.  In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Trump responded that he “should have left them in jail.”

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“Who? What was (Trump) over there for? Don’t tell me nothing,” Ball told ESPN on Friday. “Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley had been detained in China for the past week on suspicion of shoplifting. The three players returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday and were indefinitely suspended by the team.

Trump, who returned from Asia late Tuesday, said he raised the question of releasing the players when he spoke with China’s president, Xi Jinping, during a trip to Beijing last week, ESPN reported.

LaVar Ball, Trump tweeted, “is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!”

The players were questioned about allegedly stealing from three stores in Hangzhou, including sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel. They were released on bail on Nov. 8, ESPN reported.

"As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine," Ball told ESPN. "I'm happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, 'They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.' I'm from L.A. I've seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. 

“Everybody gets stuck on the negativity of some things and they get stuck on them too long. That's not me. I handle what's going on and then we go from there.”

NCAA champion South Carolina women decline White House invitation

South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley said the only invitation that interests her is one to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

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That was one of the reasons why Staley declined an invitation from the White House to attend a ceremony Friday to honor college sports’ championship teams, ESPN reported.

“We did hear from the White House about attending tomorrow's event, but we will not be able to attend,” Staley said in a statement. “As I've been saying since our practices for this season started, all of our focus is on the season ahead. The only invitation we are thinking about is to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.”

The White House did not provide a list of the teams attending, ESPN reported.

The Gamecocks won their first national championship in April. At the time, Staley said the team would go to the White House because “it's what it stands for. It's what national champions do.”

However, Staley told The Associated Press in September that the South Carolina squad had yet to receive an invitation.

“That in itself speaks volumes,” she said, adding that she was not sure the Gamecocks would accept an invitation after “some things transpired over the last few months,” ESPN reported.

President Donald Trump hosted the 2016 NCAA football champion Clemson Tigers at the White House in June. The University of North Carolina's 2017 national championship men's basketball team said earlier this year it could not agree on a date for a visit.

UCLA basketball players thank president for help after arrest in China

Three UCLA basketball players apologized on Wednesday and thanked authorities and President Donald Trump for the work done to get them home from China after they were accused of shoplifting.

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LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were questioned and arrested by police after they were accused of shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store next to their hotel in Hangzhou, China. If convicted, the trio would have faced 10-year sentences in China’s prison system.

Ball, Riley and Hill apologized to their team members, friends and family Wednesday at a news conference.

“I’d like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the store from China. I didn’t exercise my best judgement, and I was wrong for that,” Ball said. “I also apologize to the people of China for causing them so much trouble. I’m a young man, however, that’s not an excuse for making a stupid decision.”

The trio also thanked their fellow teammates, school officials and the U.S. government for the work done to bring them back to the United States.

"To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf," Riley said. "We really appreciate you helping us out."

Trump on Wednesday morning asked his followers on Twitter whether they thought the trio would thank him for his intervention.

“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” he wrote.

Ball, Riley and Hill were released and allowed to return to the United States on Tuesday after Trump said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on their behalf.

“The basketball players, by the way — I know a lot of people are asking — I will tell you, when I heard about it two days ago, I had a great conversation with President Xi,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. (The Chinese) do not play games.”

UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford said on Wednesday that Ball, Riley and Hill will be “suspended indefinitely.”

"These are good young men who exercised an inexcusable lack of judgment," Alford said. “At some point, they may be permitted to join team workouts, practices and meetings, but that timeline has yet to be determined. They will have to earn their way back."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.

Report: 3 UCLA basketball players to return to US after Chinese officials drop charges

The three UCLA basketball players previously detained by Chinese police on shoplifting allegations were being allowed to return to the United States on Tuesday, according to a report by The Washington Post.

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LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were questioned and arrested by police after being accused of shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store next to their hotel in Hangzhou, China. The three players were released on bond Wednesday and did not play in Friday’s game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai, China.

>> Related: LiAngelo Ball, UCLA teammates arrested in China could get 10 years in prison if convicted

The report of the players’ release comes hours after President Donald Trump said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the players’ case.

“They’re working on it right now... Hopefully everything is going to work out,” Trump told reporters on his tour of Asia, according to the Washington Post.

China Sports Insider reported Tuesday the charges of shoplifting were officially dropped for all three players.

LiAngelo Ball, UCLA teammates arrested in China could get 10 years in prison if convicted

Shoplifting is a relatively minor infraction in the United States, but not so in China. It could lead to a long prison sentence, according to multiple outlets — and that could be bad news for the three UCLA men’s basketball players reportedly accused of committing the crime Tuesday in Shanghai.

Bruins freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley could be sentenced to three to 10 years if convicted of “robbing public or private property using force, coercion or other methods,” according to Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel, citing the website for the Chinese mission to the United Nations.

The trio were detained Tuesday after allegedly shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store next to the hotel where UCLA is staying ahead of its season opener Friday against Georgia Tech. The most notable of the players is Ball, the younger brother of former UCLA star (and current Los Angeles Lakers rookie) Lonzo Ball and son of LaVar Ball.

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LaVar Ball, who had planned a press conference but canceled it on the advice of his legal counsel, released the following statement:

"It is a very unfortunate situation that the Ball Family, and UCLA has to deal with at this particular time. We will comment shortly," he said, per ESPN's Arash Markazi.

William Nee, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Amnesty International, told Wetzel that those detained for crimes in China could “be detained for more than a month without American-style bail before local prosecutors even decide whether to press charges.” Nee added that the United States consulate could intervene to try and negotiate a quicker resolution to the case.

Nee added that the charges could also be greatly reduced and thus warrant a much more lenient sentence.

Thunder's charter plane dented during landing in Chicago

The plane Oklahoma City Thunder team members and staff were flying on apparently hit something in midair as it prepared for a landing at Chicago’s Midway Airport, ESPN reported.

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Players who flew on the team charter from Minneapolis to Chicago landed around 1 p.m. , ESPN reported.They saw the dent as they exited the aircraft.

Several players posted photographs on social media about the bizarre situation, but the team said everyone is safe, ESPN reported. The flight landed as planned and on schedule at Midway.

Carmelo Anthony posted an image of the dented plane with the caption, "What could we have possibly hit in the SKY at this time of night? Everyone is safe, though."

The plane "likely encountered a bird" during its descent, a Delta Air Lines spokesman said in a statement, adding that the aircraft landed safely.

The Thunder, who lost 119-116 to Minneapolis on Friday, are in Chicago to face the Bulls on Saturday.

Jim Larranaga: 'I am Coach-3' in FBI college basketball probe

University of Miami coach Jim Larranaga said his legal team believes he is “Coach-3,” as noted in the Department of Justice report about the FBI investigation into college basketball’s underbelly.

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“I am grateful we have come to that conclusion,” said Larranaga, “as I know I did nothing wrong, and it is comforting to know none of my assistants are connected in any way.” He added that the U.S. attorney’s office has not confirmed the identity of “Coach-3.”

In a news conference at the Watsco Center, Larranaga addressed the media for the first time since the Sept. 26 complaint was unveiled in New York. Uncharacteristically, he read from a prepared statement. He fielded questions afterward from reporters about the emotional impact, but referred all inquiries about the investigation to his statement, which said he appreciated that the media had a job to do, but that he would not offer comment.

Larranaga’s full statement: 

“I cannot state more emphatically that I absolutely have no knowledge of any wrongdoing by any member of our staff and I certainly have never engaged in the conduct that some have speculated about,” Larranaga said, holding a piece of paper with both hands.

“I have tried to live every single one of my 68 years on this earth with integrity, character, and humility. … To have those values that I cherish so dearly even questioned, is disheartening and disappointing.”

“Coach-3,” in the FBI report, was said to know about an Adidas executive and others conspiring to funnel some $150,000 to a 2018 recruit, later learned to be Orlando-based five-star wing Nassir Little. Little and his father signed statements, provided to The Post by Larranaga’s legal team, saying they accepted no money, never discussed payment with any of the men charged, and they and Miami did nothing wrong.

>> Related: Auburn, Oklahoma State, USC coaches among 10 charged with corruption

Asked about his relationship with former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, who was one of 10 men indicted by the FBI on conspiracy and fraud charges, Larranaga declined to comment, referring to the statement.

“It’s been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Larranaga said. “It’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players.”

Both Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown, the two players Miami made available to the media, said they were not aware of the details of the investigation. They said practice has been as usual, and they’ve noticed no change in their coach.

“Around us, ‘Coach L’ isn’t going to show he’s hurt,” Newton said. “He’s so happy to be around us.”

Larranaga said he briefed his players on Sept. 26, along with UM Athletics Director Blake James.

“They have nothing to do with this,” Larranaga said. “It hasn’t been talked about since.”

Asked how the investigation has affected recruiting, Larranaga said it has been a negative, but his staff is “very strong and resilient, and we’ll figure out a way to recruit successfully.”

UM does not have a verbal commitment for 2018. It had an official visit set up the weekend of Sept. 9 with five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley, but it was canceled when Hurricane Irma forced UM to evacuate the campus.

Asked if he has received messages of support from colleagues, Larranaga answered, “Yes.”

Asked if that has helped, Larranaga answered with the same flat, “Yes.”

Auburn, Oklahoma State, USC coaches among 10 charged with corruption

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced charges against 10 people accused of participating in a pair of college basketball bribery schemes, including four coaches in top-tier college basketball programs and employees of global sportswear apparel giant Adidas.

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“The picture painted by the charges brought today is not a pretty one,” acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities allege that four coaches took bribes to steer their student athletes toward financial advisers, business managers and athletic advisers, including Jim Gatto, listed online as the director of global marketing for Adidas; and Munish Sood, identified by The Washington Post as chief executive of financial advisory company Princeton Capital.

Prosecutors identified the charged coaches as Auburn University assistant coach Chuck Person, University of Southern California assistant coach Tony Bland, University of Arizona assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson and Oklahoma State University assistant coach Lamont Evans.

Poll reveals racial divide over whether college athletes should be paid

Should college athletes be paid beyond their full scholarship? The results of an August poll by the Washington Post and the University of Massachusetts Lowell show a racial divide in the answer to that question.

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When coaches are being paid millions, and sports facilities cost tens of millions, some say athletes should also be compensated.

Although 52 percent of Americans believe a scholarship is enough, 54 percent of black Americans said they believe athletes should be paid based on the revenue they generate. 

"The schools are making an awful lot of money, and the coaches are making millions and millions of dollars, and they're (the players) the ones bringing in the money, really," one black respondent said.

But whites see things differently. 

"The whole reason they go to college is to get an education, and a scholarship should be enough," a white nurse said. "They shouldn't be paid to play football."

The majority of whites who took the poll agreed with her.

Take an in-depth look at what some economists and labor lawyers call a critical problem with college sports on myajc.com

Sports teams poke fun at eclipse through social media

Several sports teams had some fun with Monday's solar eclipse, taking to social media to put their own spin on the celestial rarity. The Atlanta Hawks gleefully blocked out the Suns, who were only too happy to block them back. And there was a total eclipse of the Hart in Philadelphia.

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Let’s start in Atlanta, where the Hawks’ Twitter account noted that “in honor of the sun being blocked today, here are our best blocks against the @Suns over the past few years!”

The Suns were not about to have the Hawks throw any shade on them, so they responded in kind: 

The Philadelphia Eagles had some fun with the 1983 Bonnie Tyler song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” using defensive tackle Tyler Hart as their focal point: 

Was that Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo protecting his eyes during the eclipse? Only the Spartans know for sure.

There was plenty of creativity to go around in the sports world. Now, players have until 2024 to think of something new.

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