Bruins to sit LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, Jalen Hill for contest against Georgia Tech in Shanghai
By Arnie Leshin | November 10, 2017
Let’s size up the Ball family. Papa LaVar Ball is the loud, obnoxious one. He’s an American businessman and media personality. He is an Internet sensation and loves to yak away. He invades your computer, television and business.
His wife Tina is kind of a mystery. She doesn’t say much, smiles a lot. She and LaVar met during their college days at Washington State. She’s a huge sports fans, but cheers most for her three sons who play basketball.
Ah the sons. The oldest, Lonzo, is quiet. The youngest, LaMelo, is flashy. The one in the middle, LiAngelo, is a shoplifter.
How’s that, he’s a freshman at UCLA, has yet to play his first basketball game for the Bruins because head coach Steve Alford will sit him and two freshmen teammates from tonight’s season-opener against Georgia Tech in Shanghai.
You can tune in to the game via ESPN, but you won’t see LiAngelo, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill in uniform. Don’t expect to see them on the bench, maybe in back of the bench or maybe left behind in the hotel.
Imagine what a feeling this is to this trio. They came to UCLA to play basketball, and displayed their talents by shoplifting in China, which is where they were treated to a pre-season tour and where it was expected to be a fun time for all making the journey.
Fun time? How about robbery time? How about explaining how these three thinking it was okay to do this in a foreign land, a land where there are different precautions, where laws and cultures and not the same as those in the United States. It’s like enjoy yourself, but realize you’re in a foreign country.
But don’t take a chance on getting arrested. To be a thief is a blow to the three players and to UCLA’s program. The Bruins only teach stealing the basketball, and Alford had little to say regarding this incident.
“I spoke to them, they were remorseful,” he said, “but we have a basketball game to be played and they will not be a part of it. I told them this was dumb, gives them a bad rap, and to stay out of trouble while being part of this program.”
With the players now out on bail, he added that he has no idea if any more charges will occur.
Surely you must be awaiting the comments from papa LaVar?
“It’s embarrassing to the Ball family and no doubt embarrassing to the families of the other two boys,” he said. “I spoke with LiAngelo and let him have it. I told him that his mother was very disappointed about this, and I had to apologize to coach Alford and to UCLA.”
Now these are youngsters excited to be in a new country and unfamiliar of their surroundings. Something they might do in the USA without thinking about could be frowned upon or even illegal in a foreign country. There’s even an issue of safety, perhaps from wondering into a bad area of town or ending up in a place where they’re not supposed to be.
The Pac-12, which has held games in China since 2015, said it provides teams with a detailed manual of all the schedules and activities for the overseas trip, including a section on cultural etiquette, social issues, safety, and other overseas travel information related to the foreign country.
Meanwhile, back in the states, LaMelo was having home tutoring after his dad took him out of Chino Hills High School his junior year, which means his next stop for hoops will be UCLA, where older brother Lonzo played his freshman season and then left for the college draft, knowing he would only play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
But as flashy and talented as he was as an All-America, it’s a different game playing in the NBA. He’s been good as a point guard, has been giving out assists and taking down rebounds, but his shooting has been awful. His last two starts had him making good on only five of 26 shots. He isn’t even been accurate from the foul circle. He’s young, he’s talented, but he has to find his range.
LaVar keeps informing the media, friends, family and others that it will come, that Lonzo will be as good as ever. Of course, LaVar keeps challenging Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley to one-and-one games, always bragging about himself, but coming in off the bench at Washington State, he averaged 2.2 in points, 2.4 in rebounds, and one assist a game.
He also tells of how good he was on the football field as a tight end at West Las Angeles Community College, Cal-State Los Angeles and Washington State. He also played for the London Monarchs.
But he was not quite the athlete that his sons are. All three were standouts on the Chino Hills team that went undefeated and won the state championship.
He might speak up and brag more, but they can walk the walk and talk the talk. But without papa LaVar, the entire universe wouldn’t know about the Balls. But for all the times he praises them, he’s just like anyone else telling his sons not to shoplift, just play basketball.
All this while LaVar counts his money. It is said he is worth about $4 million, and his Big Ball Brands sneakers and other basketball gear, are now valued at about $3 billon. And none of this came from shoplifting.