U.C.L.A. Suspends 3 Players; They Admitted to Shoplifting in China

The three U.C.L.A. men’s basketball players who were entangled in an international incident in China that compelled President Trump to get involved admitted on Wednesday that they had shoplifted in Hangzhou. They were suspended from the team indefinitely.

“They will have to earn their way back,” Coach Steve Alford said of LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

The players, who returned to the United States on Tuesday after President Trump interceded with President Xi Jinping of China, apologized for their actions at a news conference.

Ball, the highest-profile player involved, said: “I’d like to start off by saying sorry for stealing from the stores in China. I’m a young man, but it’s not an excuse for making a really stupid decision.”

The team said the players had stolen from three stores, not just one as originally reported.

Earlier Wednesday, President Trump tweeted about his intervention, saying: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

The players did thank Trump, among many others.

“To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking time to intervene on our behalf,” Riley said.

The players also thanked the Chinese police for treating them with respect.

“These are good young men who exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment,” Alford said.

No questions were taken after the news conference.

The news conference was the first time players or staff members at U.C.L.A. had commented significantly on last week’s incident. The university had been mostly closed-lipped on the matter while the players were detained. Alford said that the team had been advised that speaking about it could have jeopardized the players returning home.

The players were arrested on Nov. 8, accused of stealing designer sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store in Hangzhou. The team was in the country to play an exhibition against Georgia Tech. Playing without the three freshmen, U.C.L.A. won, 63-60, in Shanghai on Friday.

The players were detained at their hotel in Hangzhou for most of the week as their teammates flew home. On Tuesday, the three players were allowed to board a flight back to California.

“An awful lot of American kids don’t realize that the kinds of things that in United States society we tolerate with a slap on the wrist, a lot of countries they take very seriously,” John F. Kelly, the president’s chief of staff, said on Tuesday.

“Our president said to Xi, ‘Do you know anything about these knuckleheads that got caught allegedly stealing?’ ” Kelly said.

In China, where the justice system has a high conviction rate, theft can normally bring prison time, perhaps years.

Ball is part of a family that has its own reality show on Facebook, “Ball in the Family.” One brother, Lonzo, plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, and another, LaMelo, is a high schooler who has committed to play at U.C.L.A. Their father, LaVar, has become a public figure as well, and has started a sports-apparel company, Big Baller Brand.

The U.C.L.A. team’s trip to China was in part a way to raise the profile of the university and the Pac-12 Conference in that country, possibly attracting students who have well-to-do parents and who want to study abroad. Many American universities in recent years have increasingly relied on tuition payments from foreign students.

High School Teams Head to China, Mixing Basketball and Business

R. J. Barrett is only 17 years old, but he is already a world traveler.

Raised in suburban Toronto, he plays basketball for a high school in Montverde, Fla. Last summer, he led Canada to the gold medal in the under-19 world championship in Egypt, and next month, he and his teammates at Montverde Academy, which has one of the nation’s top basketball programs, will travel to Beijing for a high-profile international tournament.

But before they go, Montverde Coach Kevin Boyle plans to have a long, serious talk with everyone. And after the recent incident in which three U.C.L.A. basketball players were detained in China for a week, accused of shoplifting and then freed only after the intervention of President Trump, Boyle expects to have his players’ full attention.

“It’s definitely going to be a point that we’re going to bring up,” Boyle said in a telephone interview this week. “It’s a different culture and there are expectations of your family and the school, and then, furthermore, you’re in a Communist country. If you do something dumb, you’re not in the United States.”

He added, “It’s not the American justice system, so it’s definitely going to be something that you want to point to that this is not a joke, and don’t think you can steal a pack of gum.”

In a reflection both of basketball’s increased appeal to China and the way top-tier high school basketball has become big business, Montverde Academy will be joined in Beijing by two other American high school teams: Providence Day School of Charlotte, N.C., and Chaminade College Prep of Canoga Park, Calif. The teams will play in a round-robin format against one another and six Chinese teams from Dec. 6 to 9 at various sites.

Montverde’s presence in China is only partly about basketball, though. Like U.C.L.A. and other colleges that have sent teams abroad, Montverde is using the trip to sell itself. A private school housed on a lush campus just west of Orlando, Montverde has an extensive international presence in its corridors, including more than 60 students from China. And like the American college programs that have visited China, or plan to, it hopes to attract even more.

Montverde knows its sports teams are a powerful calling card. Boyle’s nationally ranked basketball team includes a Chinese power forward, Kevin Zhang, as well as players from Canada, Russia, Serbia and France. International students also dot the rosters of teams in a handful of other sports at the school.

Montverde has a sister campus in Shanghai.

“We would love to be able to show what Montverde is to more Chinese students that have interest in going to school in the United States,” Boyle said. “So it’s also a way for us to attract kids that are not just basketball players.”

As part of the trip, the American and Chinese coaches will trade teaching techniques, and the American teams will take in cultural events and visit historic sites. Everyone involved is making every effort to ensure that the trip goes better than U.C.L.A.’s recent visit did.

The three U.C.L.A. players — LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley — were detained by the Chinese police after they were accused of shoplifting items from several high-end stores during a trip to Hangzhou. Ball, Hill and Riley were arrested Nov. 8 and remained confined in their hotel until Nov. 14, several days after their teammates and coaches flew home after a win over Georgia Tech in which the three accused did not play.

On Wednesday, after President Trump’s personal appeal to China’s president, Xi Jinping, led to the players’ release and return to California, the players read prepared statements of contrition. U.C.L.A. has suspended them indefinitely.

Like many others, Barrett, a talented 6-foot-6 wing player who recently committed to Duke and is projected as a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 N.B.A. draft, followed developments in the case.

“I mean that’s crazy,” Barrett said of the U.C.L.A. players’ ordeal. “It’s definitely a warning sign.”

But for the coaches and tournament organizers, it was something else: a reminder that taking any group of teenagers abroad, even talented ones with experience in the public eye, can be much more than a simple tourist adventure.

Brian Field, the coach at Providence Day, said his school had plans for a meeting with the players, including the Kansas signee Devon Dotson, “about different customs and ways of life” in China. He said he would hold another one on Nov. 27, shortly before they depart.

“From where we’re sitting,” he said of the U.C.L.A. incident, “it’s probably a good thing just to help our guys be more aware of it and maybe help them to understand — not that any of them would go over there and do that — that we need to be aware of our situation when we’re over there.”

Shane Duffy, chief executive of the North American arm of Camsing Global Entertainment, the company organizing the tournament, said he was in China when the U.C.L.A. news broke. That incident, he said, means the visiting high school teams can expect a higher level of scrutiny when they arrive next month.

“We’ve always looked at this as a friendship opportunity to say, ‘Look, basketball and sports are something that speak to everybody in the world,’ ” said Duffy, a former executive in the N.B.A.’s Los Angeles office. But now, he added, “we shine obviously a brighter light on that to say: ‘Look, this is real. The government’s involved, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Sports, everybody is looking at this event and taking notice, so you guys represent more than just your high school. You represent the country.”

Boyle, who has been to China several times, including with Montverde in 2012, said he did not expect any problems on a trip that will also take his team to a tournament in Hawaii. But he still planned to warn his players to heed his instructions by reminding them that the U.C.L.A. players surely received similar ones before they left, “and people didn’t listen.”

Barrett, the veteran of overseas travel, expects another smooth ride.

“We’re there to play basketball,” he said, “so that’s what we’re going to be focused on.”

Rick Pitino’s Son Follows in His Footsteps, but Only So Far

MINNEAPOLIS — You do not need to squint hard when you look at Richard Pitino, Minnesota’s fifth-year basketball coach, to see his father, Rick, the Hall of Famer who recently lost his job at Louisville after one scandal too many.

It is all there on the surface: the fortress of hair, the disarmingly piercing eyes, the regal poise — shoulders back, arms crossed.

“Every time I see Richard and hear him speak — he’s got a lot of his dad’s mannerisms,” said Billy Donovan, the Oklahoma City Thunder coach who was a point guard for Rick Pitino at Providence, his assistant at Kentucky and, later, Richard Pitino’s boss at Florida. “It reminds me of his father.”

Since Rick Pitino, 65, was effectively fired in September after the Louisville basketball program he had led since 2001 was implicated in widespread corruption charges brought by federal prosecutors, Richard, 35, has been able to keep up with his father a little more. Rick is expected to be in Brooklyn this weekend as the No. 14 Golden Gophers (5-0), who in March made their first N.C.A.A. tournament appearance in four years, play Massachusetts (3-1) on Friday at Long Island University-Brooklyn and No. 25 Alabama (4-0) on Saturday at Barclays Center.

“Whatever the narrative is, there’s nothing you can do about that,” Richard Pitino said in an interview in his office last week, referring to his father’s termination. “But for me, I look at it like, he’s had 35, 40 great years in this profession. I’ve had a couple. What would I give to have the shelf life he’s had?”

The anxiety behind that last question hints at a crucial difference between the outwardly similar father and son: the kinds of careers they have, and aspire to.

Richard Pitino is by most definitions a wunderkind. He was named the head coach at the midmajor Florida International at 29, and was hired by Minnesota, an esteemed Big Ten program, at 30.

But Rick Pitino got his first head coaching job, at Boston University, when he was 26. When he was Richard’s age, Rick Pitino was coming off his first Final Four run and was taking over the Knicks. Two years later, he was the head coach at Kentucky. Less than a decade later, he won the first of his two national titles.

Yet Richard Pitino sees the contrast with his father not in terms of achievement, but as one of style.

“I used to argue with my dad all the time,” Richard said. “It was funny, because I said, ‘You were at Providence College for two years, you left and became the head coach of the Knicks, and then the head coach at Kentucky.’”

“I said to him,” Richard added, “You don’t understand, building a program after being one place for one year, at F.I.U. — it’s different than what you did. You were great at it. But I’ve got my other fight. And it takes time.”

For instance, Pitino sees his tenure’s turning point not in the N.I.T. championship he won in his first season nor in last year’s 24-10 campaign, but rather in the Gophers’ forgettable 2015-16 season.

That season, his young Minnesota team went 8-23 — 2-16 in conference play — enduring home losses to South Dakota, South Dakota State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Pitino suspended three players for four games in connection with a sex tape one of them had posted online. Another top player, Reggie Lynch, who had spent the year sitting out per transfer rules, was arrested in a sexual assault case, leading to his suspension. (Prosecutors declined to charge Lynch and his suspension was lifted in time for the 2016-17 season; he now starts for the Gophers.)

Around the same time, a new athletic director, Mark Coyle, arrived on campus to clean up after a sexual harassment scandal involving his predecessor. That change in leadership — combined with the Gophers’ poor record and off-court issues — inevitably prompted speculation that a new basketball coach was imminent, too.

With boosters and alumni demanding his firing, Pitino had his players write personal letters to the university’s president, Eric Kaler, apologizing for the team’s behavior and its performance. “Stick with us,” one wrote. “We won’t let you down.”

Kaler, struck by how each letter was different and in his mind genuinely heartfelt, kept them in a file in his office. The sentiments, and the contrition, probably helped Pitino keep his job. A year later, he was named the Big Ten’s coach of the year, and the Gophers, with 24 wins, were back in the N.C.A.A. tournament.

“We had a really difficult season, and three kids that start for me right now could have transferred,” Pitino said. “Most kids transfer when crap hits the fan and your coach is going to get fired and they hear all those things — most kids go. The proudest thing for me is that locker room stayed intact and we were able to weather the storm.”

As it turned out, Coyle, who had not known Pitino before he was hired at Minnesota, was impressed.

“It’s very easy when we go through difficult times to point the finger at someone else,” Coyle said. “Richard and his team did the opposite: they pointed it at themselves.”

One of those players who stayed, Dupree McBrayer, said that the experience changed Pitino as well.

“He’s not as crazy,” McBrayer said. Specifically, McBrayer noted, there has been less yelling from Pitino since that season.

The frequent moves throughout Richard Pitino’s childhood, prompted by his father’s peripatetic career, have had an important influence on him. Richard Pitino seems to have internalized the sort of even-keeled temperament that is often inherited from tumultuous childhoods — like, say, watching his father leave Kentucky for the Boston Celtics and then, a few years later, return to the state to lead Kentucky’s archrival, Louisville.

“All the people that revered him hated him,” Richard said of his father’s return to the Bluegrass State. “All the people who hated him before at Louisville now revered him. So I just understood the absurdity of the world that we live in in sports.”

That is the lesson that Richard Pitino has for his family, including his father, only months after the Pitinos came face to face with another scandal.

“I try to get them to see the world’s going to resume,” he said. “Times will get better.”

Alabama Has to Play 3-on-5 Basketball Late in a Game Against Minnesota

After multiple ejections plus an injury, No. 25 Alabama finished a game against No. 14 Minnesota on Saturday with just three players, losing, 89-84, in the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic.

The game was marred by a fight involving Minnesota’s Dupree McBrayer and Alabama’s Dazon Ingram in front of the Crimson Tide bench 6 minutes 21 seconds into the second half.

Just 27 seconds earlier, Minnesota’s Nate Mason and Sexton had each been assessed a technical foul for jawing at each other, and Mason was ejected.

During the fracas, five Alabama players — Donta Hall, Alex Reese, Daniel Giddens, Avery Johnson Jr. and Herbert Jones — came off the bench and were ejected. Ingram, who had four fouls at the time of the scuffle, fouled out.

Nearly three minutes after the McBrayer-Ingram incident, Alabama lost John Petty to a leg injury, leaving the Crimson Tide with three players.

Collin Sexton kept Alabama in the game until the end and led all scorers with 40 points.

Up by 14 with 10:17 left, the Golden Gophers saw their lead trimmed to 83-80 on Sexton’s layup. Alabama had a chance to cut the deficit to one — or to tie with a 3 — after Sexton grabbed a rebound of a miss by Amir Coffey, but he missed a midrange jumper.

Coffey responded with a layup and a foul to push the lead to 86-80, only to see Riley Smith’s dunk bring the Crimson Tide within four. McBrayer knocked down two free throws with 18 seconds remaining, and Michael Hurt’s free throw increased Minnesota’s lead to 89-82 before Sexton made two free throws with 1 second remaining.