LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The father of UCLA guard LiAngelo Ball says he’s withdrawing his son from school so he can prepare to play in the NBA. LaVar Ball says in a TV interview his “grand plan” is for all three sons to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
LiAngelo, along with fellow freshmen Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, have been indefinitely suspended for their participation in a shoplifting incident during the Bruins’ trip to China last month. They are barred from all team activities.
LaVar Ball is taking his son’s future into his own hands.
“I’m going to get Gelo in shape, I’m going to work him out, we’re going to do some other things and he’s going to be headed to the NBA,'” he told “Access Hollywood” in an interview aired Tuesday on the “Today” show.
“The grand plan stays the same: All these boys are going to get on the Lakers. Watch how I do this. People will look up and they say, ‘Wow, how’d they all get on the Lakers?'”
LiAngelo is the middle child of Ball’s three sons. Oldest son Lonzo is a rookie with the Lakers after playing one successful season at UCLA. The elder Ball pulled his youngest son, LaMelo, out of Chino Hills High recently in favour of home schooling him.
LiAngelo Ball never played a regular-season game for the Bruins (7-1), who fell out of the Top 25 last week.
Although the school has said only that the suspensions are indefinite, the “Access Hollywood” interview mentioned the period was for two to three months.
“That’s the whole season pretty much,” LiAngelo said in the TV interview. “That’s just a long time of doing nothing. I’d rather be playing.”
LiAngelo said the players were in jail for 1 1/2 days.
“It was horrible,” he said. “They take your clothes, you wear like whatever they have for you, a little jumpsuit or whatever, take your shoestrings and you just sit in a cement cell for however long. It’s just you and the officers and they don’t speak English.”
UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement on Monday that he learned of Ball’s intention to withdraw that day.
“We respect the decision he and his family have made, and we wish him all the best in the future,” Alford said in the statement.
Alford indicated last week that he expected the fate of the three suspended players to be resolved in the near term.
“China already said, ‘OK, you made a bad mistake, we’re going to drop the charges.’ That’s the punishment they made,” LaVar said in the TV interview. “Now we over here, we got to serve some more punishment? He apologized. What is the long process for? We only went to UCLA one and done.”
Alford said he and his staff were communicating with the players via text messages and calls, mostly to see if they are attending classes. The players are allowed to use athletic facilities, including the weight room, but aren’t working directly with the coaching staff, he said.
Video posted online recently showed Ball playing a pickup game against LaMelo.
Ball, Hill and Riley publicly apologized for shoplifting while reading prepared statements at a campus news conference on Nov. 15.
“People started taking stuff and me just not thinking and being with them, I took something too,” LiAngelo said in the TV interview. “We left thinking we would just get away, you know how kids think. I didn’t realize until I got back to my hotel that was stupid but by then it was too late and then sure enough the next morning the police came and got us.”
LaVar Ball and President Donald Trump have engaged in a public war of words since the three players returned from China. Ball minimized Trump’s involvement in winning the players’ release and Trump tweeted in response that he should have left the players in China in jail. The men’s exchanges escalated from there, with Trump calling Ball “an ungrateful fool.”
LaVar told “Access Hollywood” he sent Trump three pair of Big Baller shoes in red, white and blue.
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