I tip my hat to UCLA for its handling, so far, of the shoplifting incident in China.
When the school decided to suspend indefinitely LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, I clapped for several minutes. Right now, the players aren’t allowed to join team practices or attend team meetings. Bravo coach Steve Alford and AD Dan Guerrero.
I have no doubt, however, the trio will work with graduate assistants away from the rest of their teammates. I know that is the way Nevada handled Elijah Foster’s suspension last season.
When the story first broke, it was reported sunglasses had been stolen from a Louis Vuiton store. It turned out the shoplifting came at three stores.
I had to laugh when Jay Williams on ESPN said they should be suspended for a couple of games and that should be that. Rece Davis and Seth Greenberg vehemently disagreed, and it was great to see live on TV the difference of opinion.
Some people consider shoplifting no big deal in the big picture, but I disagree. You’re taught from a young age you don’t steal, and I agree. This was a big deal, more so because it happened on foreign soil in a communist country. It was a national incident, and it took President Donald Trump going to bat for the trio to get them home.
Trump did his job, and he wanted the players to acknowledge him for his help. Should Trump really need a public ego boost? He already has an ego that couldn’t fit between the wheels of an 18-wheeler much less Pauley Pavilion.
I remember a 2008 incident involving Nevada players Brandon Fields, London Giles and Ahyaro Phillips who were allegedly caught shoplifting at Scheels during Mark Fox’s tenure at Nevada. The players were benched for a few games, and Fields went on to have a terrible season. I felt the punishment should have been longer, but I was probably in the minority.
By no means do I think the UCLA trio should’ve been booted off the team. I believe for MOST incidents, kids deserve a second chance. I do, however, favor a season-long suspension over a suspension until the conference season starts. All three are freshmen, thus this could be their redshirt season. UCLA, even if its hurts the team this year, has to do the right thing even if it means the team is less successful this year. UCLA has to make this hurt; make it mean something.
The trio embarrassed themselves, their school, their families and their country. According to reports, the team had 90 minutes of free time and this is the way the trio chose to spend it. That paints a really bad picture. Some people believe school officials should’ve been monitoring all the players at all times. At 18, these guys know the difference between right and wrong. If they don’t, I blame the parents for that.
The best thing about this, if there is one, is we haven’t had to deal with Lavar Ball’s big mouth. It would be best if he kept a low profile. He can only make things worse for his kid and the others.
You have to wonder if LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the trio, will honor his verbal commitment and attend UCLA. A lot of experts say he won’t, and some ESPN personalities say there are a lot of potential UCLA recruits who don’t want to play for the Bruins because of him. LaMelo could easily play one year of junior college ball and then go pro. He’s already being schooled at home because LaVar didn’t like the coach Chino Hills hired.