In the latest dramatic development for the Ball family, LiAngelo Ball, the U.C.L.A. freshman basketball player who recently got into legal trouble while in China, will leave the team.
“We learned today of LiAngelo Ball’s intention to withdraw from U.C.L.A.,” the Bruins’ coach, Steve Alford, said in a statement. “We respect the decision he and his family have made, and we wish him all the best in the future.”
TMZ Sports initially reported the news that LiAngelo Ball would not return, and ESPN later confirmed the news with Ball’s father, LaVar, who said his son was leaving the school entirely. Lonzo Ball, LiAngelo’s older brother, starred for U.C.L.A. last season before departing for the N.B.A. after his freshman year.
“We are exploring other options with Gelo,” LaVar Ball told ESPN, using LiAngelo’s nickname. “He’s out of there.”
In the ESPN report, LaVar Ball said that LiAngelo would not be seeking another college team, and would instead begin preparing for the N.B.A. draft.
If the decision is not reversed, LiAngelo Ball, who gained national notice when he and his two brothers all committed to play for the Bruins, will finish his stint at U.C.L.A. without appearing in a regular season game for the team.
LiAngelo Ball’s problems at U.C.L.A. and its basketball team started with a disastrous trip to China with the team, during which he and three teammates were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting. President Trump, who was on a tour of Asia, personally intervened with President Xi Jinping of China to get the issue settled. The team responded to the incident by suspending Ball and the two other players who were arrested, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, on an indefinite basis.
While Ball made it clear in his public remarks following his return to the United States that he was grateful for the president’s assistance, the situation escalated when LaVar Ball publicly questioned how much help the president had actually delivered.
For LaVar Ball, the drama of arguing with the president and having his son leave U.C.L.A. — where his youngest son, LaMelo, is also committed to attend in 2019 — is nothing new. The patriarch of the family is so outspoken that the Lakers have been enforcing a policy in which the news media is not permitted to congregate in a section of the arena where family and associates of the players wait after the game. Some employees have reportedly been calling the enforcement the “LaVar Ball rule”.
How the situation at U.C.L.A. will affect Lonzo Ball, a rookie guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, is unknown, but as recently as last night he had been telling reporters that the drama around him was beginning to die down. Asked about the chaos surrounding him and his brother’s legal situation, Lonzo Ball said: “Yeah, it is definitely calming down, given that it happened two weeks ago. When it first happened, it was definitely on me and stuff. But it definitely died down.”