Former UCLA basketball player Jalen Hill has died after disappearing from Costa Rica, his family said.
Mr. Hill, 22, was a star player on the team before he retired from basketball last year to focus on his mental health.
“We know Jalen played a role in so many people’s lives,” the family wrote in an Instagram post NBC LA. “We also acknowledge the role many of you played in his. As we try to get through this devastating time in our lives, please give us time to grieve. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.”
Mr. Hill left the Bruins in 2021 after playing three seasons with the team, citing the need for treatment for depression and anxiety.
The cause of death has not been released, and it is unclear why Hill was in Costa Rica.
Hill’s former coach, Mick Cronin, spoke to Los Angeles Timessaying he was “a warm-hearted young man with a great smile who left us too soon”.
His high school basketball coach also spoke to the paper, saying he was “stunned” by the announcement.
“I’m so stunned I don’t even have any emotion right now,” said Josh Giles, his coach at Corona Centennial High School. “Hearing something like this is next-level devastating.”
Mr. Giles said Los Angeles Daily News that he drove Mr. Hill to school every day because the two lived on the same block.
“It would take 25 minutes to get to and from school every day, so we would talk in the car, and it was never about basketball,” the coach recalled. “We talked about politics, relationships, religion. He was a very curious, intelligent kid. I loved him. He was the best.”
The UCLA men’s basketball team remembered Mr. Hill on Twitter.
“Our program is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former student-athlete Jalen Hill,” UCLA Men’s Basketball the order wrote. “We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Mr. Hill played his last game with the team on Jan. 30, 2021. He sat out the following week for what UCLA said were “personal” reasons.
He soon left the team, saying that the pressure he felt to succeed was causing him significant anxiety and depression.
“Just like, no, I have to take a break,” said Mr. Hill Los Angeles Times in April 2021. “It was a hard decision, but once I knew what I had to do, it wasn’t hard, like I realized, like, this is going to help me.”