Steve Alford ‘surprised’ to learn LiAngelo Ball was leaving UCLA, hasn’t talked to LiAngelo or LaVar

8:24 PM ET

LOS ANGELES — UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford said he was surprised Monday when he learned through various media reports that freshman LiAngelo Ball was leaving the program and withdrawing from school.

Ball was one of three freshmen suspended indefinitely after a shoplifting incident in China in November that became international news.

“I don’t think it’s angry. I think it was more, maybe, surprised,” Alford said when asked for his reaction to the news. “If you’re looking for one word, maybe it’s surprised because it’s nothing that we saw coming.

The Ball family-UCLA divorce you knew was coming

The Ball family and UCLA weren’t built for the long haul. This was supposed to be a three-season relationship, a Lonzo-LiAngelo-LaMelo succession of one-and-done, with LaVar shouting the entire time. But now, it appears over. And it’s going to be messy.

“LiAngelo has been, since coming back [from China], he’s been tremendous. He’s been to all of his classes, he’s been to all the tutors, all the mentors. He’s done exactly what’s

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