Former UCLA basketball player Jalen Hill has died at the age of 22, according to his family and the university.
The Associated Press reported that Hill’s family learned of his death after he recently went missing while in Costa Rica.
“We know Jalen has played a part in the lives of so many people,” Hill’s family wrote 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.”
Josh Giles, Hill’s high school coach at Corona Centennial, praised Hill in a statement for being a good person.
“Just a really good kid, had a great smile,” Giles said. “He was a great basketball player, but I just loved him as a person.”
“Our program is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former student-athlete Jalen Hill,” UCLA Men’s Basketball tweeted. “We offer our most sincere condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
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. pic.twitter.com/JOUrHjh9NU
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) September 21, 2022
“The news of Jalen Hill’s passing is heartbreaking,” UCLA Men’s Basketball coach Mick Cronin tweeted. “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.”
The 6-foot-10 athlete played three seasons at UCLA before leaving the program for personal reasons last year allegedly related to mental health issues.
“I just had to distance myself because the headspace I was in, it was damaging the team,” Hill said in an Instagram video. “So I didn’t want to restrict them from achieving their goals, too.”
Hill was one of three players arrested in China back in 2017 for shoplifting. The other two players were Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball.
“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump?” former President Donald Trump tweeted after he got the three men released from jail. “They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
Later in the day, during a news conference, all three players thanked Trump for using his power as president to reach out to Chinese President Xi Jinping and convince him to let the players go.
“To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf,” Riley said. “We really appreciate you helping us out.”
“I’d also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well,” Ball said.
“Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home,” Hill said.