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LiAngelo Ball

The UCLA players detained in China thanked Trump for intervening on their behalf

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Updated November 15, 2017 02:19 PM EST

UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley apologized Wednesday for shoplifting during their team's trip to China and thanked President Trump and the U.S. government for intervening on their behalf.

The trio - detained in the Chinese city of Hangzhou last week following allegations of shoplifting against them there - was suspended indefinitely.

Ball, the brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, opened his remarks at the press conference by apologizing for stealing.

"I didn't exercise my best judgment and I was wrong for that," he said.

"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."

"What I did was stupid," Hill said. "There's just no other way to put it."

Updated November 15, 2017 02:04 PM EST

The UCLA basketball players who were detained in China speak after returning to the U.S.

Updated November 15, 2017 10:51 AM EST

President Trump on Wednesday took credit for securing the release of three University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) men's basketball players who were recently detained in China.

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

UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley reached Los Angeles International Airport late Tuesday after a 12-hour flight from Shanghai.

The group was detained in the Chinese city of Hangzhou last week following allegations of shoplifting against them there.

Trump on Tuesday said he had a long conversation about the trio's status with Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart, amid international headlines over the incident.

The detention attracted global attention as UCLA is one of America's top basketball programs and Ball comes from a famous sports family.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The three University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) men’s basketball players detained for a week in China have flown home to the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal on Tuesday reported that UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were seen late that evening at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.

The three were checking into a Delta flight bound for Los Angeles, according to airline staff, and ultimately took off after 9 p.m. local time.

The group’s departure came hours after President Trump said he had requested help on their behalf from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

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Trump earlier Tuesday expressed hope that the college athletes could return home after their recent arrest in China for shoplifting.

“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,” he told reporters in Manilla.

“[Xi] was terrific, and they’re working on it right now,” Trump added of the case. “And hopefully everything is going to work out.”

“What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games.”

Trump traveled to China last week, landing a day after the three UCLA students were arrested for allegedly shoplifting from a Luis Vuitton store in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

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The trio was returned to the team’s hotel on Nov. 7 after the reported theft of sunglasses at the boutique the day before.

News of the three’s troubles emerged hours before Xi welcomed Trump during the latter’s first presidential visit to China.

The shoplifting probe also made global headlines as LiAngelo Ball’s brother Lonzo Ball is a National Basketball Association (NBA) star with the Los Angeles Lakers.

UCLA is one of America’s top college basketball players, and the trio were absent from their team’s win over Georgia Tech in Shanghai last Saturday.

The majority of the school’s team returned to the U.S. after that contest, while Hill, Riley and LiAngelo Ball remained at the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou before their eventual departure.

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