But now that he no longer attends UCLA, Ball has admitted he included Trump among the people he thanked during a Nov. 15 news conference only because he was instructed to by someone at the university.
“If they didn’t tell me to do it, it wouldn’t have been in there, to be honest,” Ball said Wednesday during an interview on a New York radio show.
Ball and two of his former Bruins teammates, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, were arrested for shoplifting merchandise from three upscale stores inside a mall in Hangzhou, China, days before the Bruins’ season opener against Georgia Tech in Shanghai.
They spent a night in jail and were released on bail Nov. 8 but remained in a hotel in Hangzhou for several days as the legal process played out. On Nov. 14, Trump told reporters he asked China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to help resolve the case involving the three players.
A day later, Ball and his then-teammates were back in Westwood. Just before their scheduled news conference, Trump sent out a tweet suggesting he deserved a mention for his role in the players’ safe return home.
All five people who spoke during the news conference — the three players, Bruins coach Steve Alford and athletic director Dan Guerrero — ended up giving the president a shoutout. Ball said Wednesday that it wasn’t his decision to do so.
“My school wanted to hear it,” Ball said. “Before I went up there, it was like, ‘You gotta thank him,’ so I just threw him in there real quick.”
Ball withdrew from UCLA last week rather than wait out an indefinite suspension for the shoplifting incident. He and younger brother LaMelo Ball have signed contracts to play with Lithuanian team Vytautas Prienai for the rest of the season.