SHANGHAI • LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers star Lonzo, was among three college basketball players arrested in China on suspicion of shoplifting, US media reports said yesterday.
Ball, who is with the University of California, Los Angeles' (UCLA) basketball team ahead of their season-opening game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai on Saturday, was detained with team-mates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, ESPN reported.
A Hangzhou government spokesman confirmed three American citizens had been arrested on suspicion of shoplifting but referred further questions to the police, who could not immediately be reached.
ESPN said the players were arrested on Tuesday after around 20 police officers descended on their hotel in Hangzhou near Shanghai, where the team were on a tour of the corporate campus of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, a sponsor of the game.
Police questioned members of both teams in the hotel before taking away the three UCLA players.
The fate of the players yesterday, and whether they would face charges, was unclear. Shoplifting can bring a prison term of three to seven years in China, Yahoo Sports reported.
A US State Department official told Agence France-Presse: "We are aware of reports of three US citizens arrested in China and stand ready to assist."
• LiAngelo Ball (above), from the University of California, Los Angeles, is one of three basketball-playing brothers.
• The eldest Lonzo, 20, joined the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers this year.
• The youngest, LaMelo, is still in high school.
The official declined further comment, citing "privacy considerations".
On Tuesday, UCLA said it was "aware of a situation involving UCLA student-athletes" and was cooperating with local authorities, but otherwise declined to comment. Georgia Tech said none of its athletes were involved.
LiAngelo Ball is one of three basketball-playing siblings who have emerged in the US in recent years, fuelled in part by father LaVar's aggressive promotion of his sons as future NBA superstars.
In a video posted on Twitter on Wednesday by Arash Markazi, a senior writer at ESPN, LaVar Ball said LiAngelo would be fine.
"He'll be fine. Everyone's making it a big deal. It ain't that big a deal," said Ball Sr.
LaVar Ball was filmed leaving a hotel and boarding a van for what Markazi said was a sightseeing tour of Shanghai with his family. LiAngelo was apparently not with them.
Eldest brother Lonzo joined the Lakers this year after just one season with UCLA, while youngest brother LaMelo Ball is still in high school but also on the radar as a future professional.
LaVar Ball is frequently criticised in the US over his brash claims, and Twitter users wasted little time taking shots at LiAngelo.
"Season hasn't even started and he already leads the nation in steals," said one posting, while others launched a cheeky #FreeLiAngelo hashtag.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS