LOS ANGELES -- There is an ongoing internal debate among UCLA officials about the proper discipline for the three freshmen basketball players who returned to the United States on Tuesday after admitting to shoplifting from three stores while on a team trip to China, multiple sources told ESPN.
The school has suspended the players from the team indefinitely.
Sources told ESPN that university officials are debating whether to suspend LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill anywhere from half of the season up to the full season. Multiple major donors have called the school with their thoughts on the situation, according to sources.
If the players are suspended for half the season, they would be back around the time the team begins conference play. If the players are suspended for the entire season, there is a chance one or more could decide to transfer. Riley and Hill were ESPN 100 recruits; Ball is the brother of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, who also played for UCLA.
At a news conference on Wednesday, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero confirmed an ESPN report that the players shoplifted from three stores, including Louis Vuitton, inside of a high-end shopping center next to the team's hotel in Hangzhou. The players were questioned last week at the team's hotel in Hangzhou, where the No. 23 Bruins had been staying before leaving for Shanghai to face Georgia Tech on Friday. They were released on bail for a total of about $2,200 early on the morning of Nov. 8 and had been staying at a lakeside hotel in Hangzhou since then.
The players will be suspended from the team as the athletic program and the University's Office of Student Conduct review the situation. They will not be able to travel with the team, practice or suit up for home games during that time.
Later Wednesday, following the Bruins' 106-101 home win over Central Arkansas, head coach Steve Alford said: "All the information that we know was given, so now it's just school protocol -- what goes on with student conduct. Once that's cleared, we'll sit as an administration and coaches and move from there."
"I don't know of any internal debate going on," Alford said. "The indefinite suspension is what it is -- it's indefinite right now until the school goes through what they have to go through. They do that with every student, and when that happens, then we'll sit down and we'll make the best judgment call we can about the length of that suspension."
UCLA's trip to China was viewed as more than just an athletic program road trip; it was a goodwill journey for the entire university. UCLA chancellor Gene Block and his wife, Carol, UCLA vice provost Cindy Fan, UCLA engagement director Stephen Tan and UCLA professor Ren Sun all traveled with team to Hangzhou and Shanghai.
"We have heard and appreciate everyone's views," Block wrote in a statement after the players left China. "I want to be clear that we take seriously any violations of the law. We remain one of the world's top academic institutions in large part because of our values and standards, which we work hard to infuse throughout our campus community.
"When members of the UCLA family fail to uphold these values, we review these incidents with fair and thorough processes. In this particular case, both Athletics and the Office of Student Conduct will review this incident and guide any action with respect to the involved students. Such proceedings are confidential, which limits the specific information that can be shared."