Former UCLA basketball player Jalen Hill dead after going missing in Costa Rica, family says

Former UCLA basketball player Jalen Hill dead after going missing in Costa Rica, family says

Former University of California, Los Angeles, basketball player Jalen Hill has died after going missing Costa Rica, his family said.

Mr Hill, 22, was a star player on the team before he stepped away from basketball last year to focus on his mental health.

“We know Jalen has played a part in the lives of so many people,” the family wrote in an Instagram post, per NBC LA. “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.”

Mr Hill left the Bruins in 2021 after playing three seasons with the team, citing the need to treat his depression and anxiety.

A cause of death has not been released, and it is unclear why Mr Hill was in Costa Rica.

Mr Hill's former coach, Mick Cronin, spoke with the Los Angeles Times, saying he was "a warm-hearted young man with a great smile who has left us far too soon."

His high school basketball coach also spoke with the paper, saying he was "stunned" by the announcement.

“I’m so stunned I don’t even have an emotion right now,”Josh Giles, his coach at Corona Centennial High School said. “To hear something like this is next-level devastating.”

Mr Giles told the Los Angeles Daily News that he drove Mr Hill to school every day as the two lived on the same block.

"It would take 25 minutes to get to and from school every day, so we'd talk in the car, and it was never about basketball," the coach recalled. "We'd talk 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," the UCLA Men's Basketball account wrote. "We offer our most sincere condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Mr Hill played his final game with the team on 30 January, 2021. The next week he sat out a game for what UCLA said was "personal" reasons.

He left the team shortly after, saying the pressure he felt to succeed was causing him significant anxiety and depression.

“I’m just like, nah, I need to take this break,” Mr Hill told The Los Angeles Times in April 2021. “It was a tough decision to make, but once I knew what I had to do, it wasn’t hard, like I figured out, like, this is going to help me.”