LOS ANGELES – Jalen Hill, who played basketball at UCLA for three seasons before leaving last year for personal reasons, has died, according to his family and the university. He was 22 years old.
His family posted on Instagram on Tuesday that Hill had died after disappearing in Costa Rica. No further details were provided.
“We know that Jalen has played a role in so many people’s lives,” Hill’s family wrote in the post. “We also recognize the role many of you played in his. As we try to navigate this devastating time in our lives, we ask that you give us time to grieve. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.”
UCLA and coach Mick Cronin posted statements on social media on Wednesday acknowledging Hill’s death. “Our program is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former student athlete Jalen Hill. We offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time,” the school said.
Cronin called Hill’s death “heartbreaking”.
“Jalen was a kind-hearted young man with a big smile who left us too soon,” the coach tweeted.
Hill, a center forward from Corona, Calif., averaged 6.5 points and 6.4 rebounds, starting 40 of the Bruins’ 77 career games over three seasons.
In April 2021, Hill posted a video on Instagram in which he explained his reasons for leaving the show in February. He said he would retire from basketball as he was dealing with anxiety and depression.
“The reason I left had nothing to do with the team or Cronin or coaches, none of that. Just so everyone can understand, it was me,” he said in the video.
As freshmen, Hill, along with LiAngelo Ball and Cody Riley, were arrested in China in November 2017 for shoplifting during the show’s goodwill visit to play a game of Pac-12. UCLA suspended all three players for the entire 2017-18 season.
Ball left school, but Hill and Riley returned to complete their college careers.