Former coach of local UCLA player says there should be no thanks-giving debate with President Trump

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The president’s latest Twitter firestorm is against the father of a UCLA basketball player. He's upset Lavar Ball hasn't thanked him for helping free his son and two other players from China after their shoplifting arrest.

LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Jill and KCK native Cody Riley were supposed to be on the court Tuesday night at Sprint Center as the team took on Wisconsin in a consolation game in the Hall of Fame Classic.

Victor Williams said he has seen a lot of good players in his day, but few like Riley. He began coaching him in AAU in the fifth grade.

“Myself and him have been very close; he’s like a little brother to me," Williams said.

He still talked to him everyday when he went off to play basketball for UCLA, but those calls went unanswered when the three players were arrested for shoplifting before a game in China.

“You have no idea what’s going on and when he’s coming home, so it’s a scary situation," Williams said.

Reports said the three players could have faced up to 10 years in prison. Exactly why they were eventually freed is still unclear, but it happened shortly after President Trump spoke to China’s President.

But Lavar Ball wasn’t impressed.

“If he said he helped, that’s good for his mind, but why does he even have to say anything? If you helped, you shouldn’t have to say anything. If I help somebody, I don’t walk around saying, 'You know I helped, you now,'" Ball said.

“I would say thank you if he had put them on his plane," Ball went on to say.

The president responded on Twitter saying he should have left the players in jail.

Fans say it’s a controversy that never had to get to this point.

“I would have thanked him if my child was in a foreign country," UCLA fan Jenn Miller said. "I would have done absolutely anything and would have had any help getting him home."

As for Riley’s “big brother” -- he says he’s thankful for the president’s actions. Thankful his protege may one day get a chance to be known as a player and role model, not for one bad decision.

“He’s very remorseful for putting his family in that situation first and foremost, putting himself in that situation and he’s ready to redeem himself and overcome it," Williams said.