Former UCLA men’s basketball forward Jalen Hill died at the age of 22, the program confirmed Tuesday night in a series of social media posts.
“The news of Jalen Hill’s passing is heartbreaking,” Bruins head coach Mick Cronin said early Wednesday morning in a statement posted to his verified Twitter account. “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.”
Hill’s family had posted on Instagram Tuesday night, announcing Hill’s death after he “went missing while in Costa Rica” but did not elaborate further.
“We know Jalen has played a part in the lives of so many people,” Hill’s family wrote in the 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.”
In April 2021, in an Instagram video, Hill addressed his reasons for leaving the team earlier that year in February, saying that he didn’t want to be a distraction as the Bruins made their run in the NCAA Tournament. He also said he would be retiring from basketball as he battled anxiety and depression.
“I just had to distance myself because the headspace I was in, it was damaging the team,” Hill said in April. “So I didn’t want to restrict them from achieving their goals, too. The reason I left had nothing to do with the team or Cronin or coaches, nothing like that. Just so everybody can understand, it was me.”
The Bruins (27-8) eventually earned a four seed in the East regional and eventually advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to No. 8 North Carolina, 73-66.
In the Instagram video, Hill said his issues with anxiety and depression started when he was arrested in China in Nov. 2017 for shoplifting. UCLA and Georgia Tech had been in China to play in the 2017 Pac-12 China Game, as part of an initiative to promote goodwill for the Pac-12 and its member institutions through sport.
LiAngelo Ball and Cody Riley were the other Bruins players arrested during the incident. UCLA suspended all three players for the entire 2017-18 season.
Hill returned to the Bruins program for the 2018-19 season. He appeared in 77 games through two-and-a-half seasons for UCLA, starting 40 games. He averaged 6.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, shooting 54.6% from the floor.