LiAngelo Ball says UCLA made him thank Trump for his release

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LiAngelo Ball attends a news conference at UCLA on Nov. 15.Jae C. Hong / AP file

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By Dan Corey

It looks like the feud between President Donald Trump and the Ball family isn't ending any time soon.

LiAngelo Ball, who was on the UCLA men's basketball team until recently, said Wednesday that the university pressured him to thank the president for his release from China after he and two teammates were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting more than a month ago.

"[Trump] tweeted about it before my speech so I had to add it in there right before I gave it," Ball told "The Breakfast Club," a morning radio show on the New York radio station Power 105.1.

He later added: "My school wanted to hear it too. Before I went up there, it's like, 'You gotta thank him.' I just threw him in there real quick before I gave my speech."

LiAngelo Ball attends a news conference at UCLA on Nov. 15.Jae C. Hong / AP file

UCLA Athletics' communications office declined to respond to Ball's comments to NBC News.

Along with Ball, freshmen basketball players Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were arrested at the team's hotel in Hangzhou, China, which is about 100 miles southwest of Shanghai, ESPN first reported.

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The players were arrested a day before Trump arrived for a visit to China, where he met with President Xi Jinping.

"Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!" the president tweeted on Nov. 15 after they returned to the U.S.

Ball shouted out Trump later that day during a press conference with Riley and Hill.

"I'd also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well," Ball said.

Related: LaVar Ball won't thank Trump after son freed, but he did send him sneakers

UCLA has since suspended the three players indefinitely following their arrests in China, but Ball's father, LaVar Ball, pulled his athlete son out of the university.

The elder Ball has declined to credit Trump with helping to free his son, but did send three pairs of sneakers — one red, one white and one blue — from his Big Baller Brand apparel line to the White House.

By playing down Trump's role in LiAngelo Ball's release, LaVar Ball prompted a heated response from the president on Twitter.

"It wasn't the White House, it wasn't the State Department, it wasn't father LaVar's so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence - IT WAS ME," Trump tweeted on Nov. 22. "Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man's version of Don King, but without the hair."

LiAngelo Ball and his younger brother LaMelo Ball have since signed a one-year deal to play overseas with the Lithuanian basketball club Prienu Vytautas.

When asked if he would have still apologized having known he was leaving UCLA for Lithuania, LiAngelo Ball said he wouldn't have.

"If they didn't tell me to do it, it wouldn't have been in there, to be honest," he said Wednesday.