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Jalen Hill, a former standout men’s basketball player for UCLA, died after vanishing in Costa Rica, his family announced on social media on Tuesday. He was 22.
Hill’s family didn’t reveal any details about the former player’s death.
Hill told the Los Angeles Times in April 2021 that he battled anxiety and depression after putting a large weight on his shoulders to succeed in the sport, and said it was part of the reason why he ended up leaving the team.
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“We know Jalen has played a part in the lives of so many people,” his family said on Instagram. “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 and men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin released statements on social media.
“Our program is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former student-athlete Jalen Hill. We offer our most sincere condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time,” the school said.
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Cronin added: “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.”
Josh Giles, Hill's coach at Centennial High School in California, told the Los Angeles Times that the news of the basketball player's death was “next-level devastating.”
Hill played for the Bruins starting with the 2018-19 season under Steve Alford and Murray Bartow and the final season and a half of his career under Cronin.
He was on the team that eventually made it all the way to the Final Four in 2021, but he took a leave of absence from the team in January 2021 and never returned. He told the LA Times he needed to take the break, calling it a “hard decision.”
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Hill was also caught up in an incident in China in 2017. Hill, a freshman at the time, along with LiAngelo Ball and Cody Riley, were accused of shoplifting in China. Then-President Trump helped negotiate their release and all three players were later suspended for the season.