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UCLA Players Questioned Trump

Flanked by Cody Riley, left, and Jalen Hill, third from left, UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball reads his statement as head coach Steve Alford listens during a news conference Wednesday.

An open letter to UCLA men's basketball coach Steve Alford:

I watched that brief news conference Wednesday featuring your three disgraced freshman players who were arrested and detained in China for shoplifting at several high-end stores.

They each read scripted statements saying how sorry they were and asking for forgiveness, calling their actions "stupid" and "childish."

John Wooden is turning over in his grave.

You're a star athlete, your education is paid for, you're treated like gods, the door to an NBA career is slightly ajar — and you steal from others?

How pathetic.

Coach, you also read a scripted statement saying how disappointment you were, how your players had let so many people down, and hopefully had learned a life lesson. You said they were indefinitely suspended, but didn't know for how long.

No one took questions afterward.

And, oh, the players did make a point of thanking President Donald Trump for intervening on their behalf — after he had tweeted earlier in the day saying they should publicly thank him because "they were headed for 10 years in jail!"

The news conference rang hollow to me, like writing 100 times on the school blackboard: "I will not hide a rubber mouse in Sally Smith's lunch bag."

I don't believe Cody Riley, Jalen Hill and LiAngelo Ball — younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, who played last season at UCLA — were heartbroken over the embarrassment they had brought their school, college basketball in general, and our nation.

I believe they were more relieved to put this incident behind them and get back to their dorms.

There should've been a Q&A afterward, so these young men could answer from their hearts, not from a prepared statement no doubt written by the sports information department.

You can tell a lot about someone's sincerity when they have to look you straight in the eye during tough questioning.

The feedback on social media varied. Some felt your players should've been kicked out of school. Others thought that was too extreme and suggested a suspension — not two or three games — but maybe a third of the season.

I'd suspend them half a season, allow them to practice, sit behind the bench at home games in street clothes (embarrassing enough) but not travel.

What are YOU going to do, Coach?

Will the Bruins' national ranking speed along that process? Just wondering.

We're watching, Coach, particularly in this state where you were Mr. Basketball and starred for Bob Knight at Indiana.

You have a reputation for not dropping the hammer hard enough on players who run afoul of the law like Pierre Pierce did in 2002 and 2005 when you coached at Iowa.

That was some serious, ugly stuff.

Shoplifting might not be as ugly, but you've still got to send a message.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at