LOS ANGELES -- LaVar Ball downplayed his son's shoplifting incident in China, as well as President Donald Trump's involvement in getting LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA basketball players back to the United States earlier this week.
"Who?" LaVar Ball told ESPN on Friday, when asked about Trump's involvement in the matter. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."
UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who had been detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting, landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening and addressed the media on Wednesday before being indefinitely suspended by the team.
Trump, who returned late Tuesday from a trip through Asia, raised the players' case with President Xi Jinping of China during a visit to Beijing last week.All three players offered thanks to Trump during Wednesday's news conference.
The players were arrested and questioned on Nov. 7 about stealing from high-end stores, including sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team's hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins had been staying before leaving for Shanghai to face Georgia Tech.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said Wednesday that the players stole from three stores. They were released from custody after posting bail early Nov. 8, on the condition that they surrender their passports; they had been staying at a lakeside hotel in Hangzhou prior to flying home.
"As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine," LaVar 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. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn't define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that's a different thing.
"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."
LaVar Ball downplays Donald Trump's role in UCLA freshmen's release