Former UCLA basketball standout Jalen Hill died recently after going missing in Costa Rica, his family said on Tuesday night. Hill was 22 years old.
“We know Jalen has played a part in the lives of so many people,” the family wrote in an Instagram post. “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.”
The power forward played three seasons for the Bruins and averaged nine points and seven rebounds in his breakout sophomore season.
“The news of Jalen Hill’s passing is heartbreaking. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time. Jalen was a warm-hearted young man with a great smile who has left us far too soon,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said in a statement.
Hill left the UCLA program midway through his junior season in 2021, citing depression and anxiety.
“When I (took a step back), it was a whole new life,” Hill said at the time. “I’ve never felt this happy before in my life. I just wake up and I’m just happy to be alive. And it sounds crazy to say it, but it’s just true.”
Hill had been missing for a couple of days, his family said.
The 6-foot-10 forward was a Corona, Calif. native and a four-star recruit for UCLA. His career with the Bruins got off to an inauspicious start when he, along with fellow freshmen LiAngelo Ball and Cody Riley, were arrested in China in 2017 for shoplifting while there for a game against Georgia Tech. It led to a season-long suspension for all three players and made constant headlines as LiAngelo was part of the famous basketball family, led by talkative patriarch LaVar Ball.
Hill, though, stayed with the team and became a solid contributor for the winning program.
“I’m so stunned I don’t even have an emotion right now. To hear something like this is next-level devastating,” Josh Giles, Hill’s high school coach at Corona Centennial High, told the Los Angeles Times.