Steve Alford 'surprised' to learn LiAngelo Ball was leaving UCLA, hasn't talked to LiAngelo or LaVar

ByKyle Bonagura ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford said he was surprised when he learned through various media reports that freshman LiAngelo Ball was leaving the program and withdrawing from school.

Ball was one of three freshmen suspended indefinitely after a shoplifting incident in China in November that became international news.

"I don't think it's angry. I think it was more, maybe, surprised," Alford said Tuesday when asked for his reaction to the news. "If you're looking for one word, maybe it's surprised because it's nothing that we saw coming."

Regarding Ball, Alford said: "LiAngelo has been, since coming back [from China], he's been tremendous. He's been to all of his classes, he's been to all the tutors, all the mentors. He's done exactly what's been asked of him."

Alford said he has not talked with Ball or his father, LaVar Ball, and does not plan to reach out to either of them.

"Why for? I didn't make that decision," he said. "So I'm here, I'm at Pauley [Pavilion] every day. I'm at the Ostin Center every day working, so if they need to talk, they know where to find me."

LaVar Ball told ESPN's Jeff Goodman on Monday that LiAngelo will not transfer to another school and will begin preparing for the NBA draft.

"I'm going to make him way better for the draft than UCLA ever could have," Ball said.

Asked Tuesday how LiAngelo Ball, who did not appear in a single game for UCLA, projects as an NBA prospect, Alford said he had "no idea on that." Ball's older brother, Lonzo Ball, was the No. 2 overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers after spending one season at UCLA.

LaVar Ball suggested that the UCLA coaches should carry some of the responsibility for the shoplifting incident.

"These coaches is making a grip of money," he told CNN on Tuesday. "We got to be mindful now that they could be under this too on the fact that they have to hold a little accountability."

Alford was unfazed by the statement.

"It's not like we turned them loose to go across town. They had a 90-minute window to walk around an area outside of the hotel," he said Tuesday. "They were told not to go individually, so they were going to be in a group, and they're young adults. ... I think they know what's right and what's wrong."

Jalen Hill and Cody Riley remain enrolled at UCLA and suspended indefinitely. Alford said the disciplinary process remains ongoing through the office of student conduct, and he did not have a timeline for when it will be complete.

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