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Former UCLA men’s basketball player Jalen Hill has died after his disappearance in Costa Rica, his family said.
Hill, who starred at Centennial High School in Corona, was 22.
In an Instagram post, Hill’s family said they were unable to share details surrounding his death. It was not immediately clear when Hill died.
“We know Jalen has played a part in the lives of so many people,” the family wrote in a post Tuesday. “We also acknowledge the role that so many of you have played in his. As we try to navigate this devastating time in our lives, we ask that you please give us time to grieve. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.”
UCLA’s men’s basketball program issued a statement expressing condolences to the family.
“Our program is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former student-athlete Jalen Hill,” the school said. “We offer our most sincere condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Hill was a star at Centennial High School in Corona, leading the Huskies to the CIF Southern Section Regional Division I championship game as senior in 2017. He was ranked as the No. 47 player nationally in his high school class by ESPN.
Hill’s coach at Corona Centennial said he was devastated to learn of his former player’s death.
“He was a great young man. I drove him to school all four years because he lived down the street,” coach Josh Giles told NBCLA. “I spent a lot of time with him.
“He was a great kid, on and off the court. He made amazing contributions to the school and to the program. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about him.”
Former UCLA associate men’s basketball coach David Grace remembered recruiting Hill.
“I’m just crushed to hear the passing of Jalen Hill,” said Grace. “Was always a joy to be around. I loved our conversations while recruiting him and coaching him. Always had a great smile. This hurts.”
In a tweet, Bruins coach Mick Cronin called Hill’s death heartbreaking.
“Jalen was a warm-hearted young man with a great smile who has left us far too soon,” Cronin said.
Current and former Bruins also expressed their grief on social media.
“My heart literally dropped,” said former UCLA women’s basketball player Michaela Onyenwere on Twitter. “Rest In Peace to a beautiful soul.”
“Went from hating each other to one of my closest friends at UCLA,” former teammate Jaylen Clark wrote on Instagram.
The 6-foot-10 Hill played 77 games over three seasons for UCLA, starting 40 games, averaging 6.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Hill played his last game for the Bruins on Jan. 30, 2021, going scoreless in 11 minutes against Oregon State. The team announced the following week that he was sitting out a game against USC for personal reasons.
Hill later said the reason why he never came back to play was due to anxiety and depression after putting excessive pressure on himself to succeed.
“It was a tough decision to make, but once I knew what I had to do, it wasn’t hard, like I figured out, like, this is going to help me,” Hill told The Times in a 2021 interview.
In a candid September 2021 Instagram post, Hill shared his thoughts on that time in his life and his arrest for shoplifting during a team trip to China.
Hill was among three UCLA freshmen arrested when the Bruins were in Hangzhou, China to open the 2017-18 season and remained at the team’s hotel until their case could be resolved. The players publicly apologized upon their return to campus and thanked everyone involved in helping to resolve the case so they could return home, including then-President Donald Trump.
“There’s just no other way to put it,” he said. “And I’m not that type of person. I hope that this mistake will not define me as a person, but it shows that I have messed up and can learn from it. I don’t want to be known for this dumb mistake. I want to be known for my respectfulness and my love and passion for the game of basketball. This event has changed me in a way I can’t explain.”
Former UCLA Basketball Player Jalen Hill Dies at Age 22 – NBC 7 San Diego
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