Jalen Hill, a former basketball player at UCLA and Corona Centennial High, has died.
The tragic news was confirmed by Hill’s high school basketball coach, Josh Giles, who coached Hill for four years. He was 22 years old.
Giles and Hill became very close during Hill’s time at Centennial.
“He lived in the same neighborhood as me. I would pick him up and take him to school every day with (teammate) Sedrick Barefield,” Giles said. “It took 25 minutes to get to school every day, so we talked in the car, and it was never about basketball.”
“We were talking about politics, relationships, religion. He was a very curious and intelligent boy. I liked it. He was the best,” Giles added.
Hill’s father, George Hill, posted a tribute on Instagram, also confirming Hill’s passing.
“Our hearts are broken and completely broken to inform family and friends that our beloved son, Jalen, has passed away,” the post read. “Jalen disappeared in Costa Rica and we recently learned of his passing. …”
No cause of death was provided, but Giles confirmed the news after exchanging text messages with George Hill.
“We know that Jalen has played a role in the lives of so many people,” read the family message. “We also recognize the role 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 your prayers.
Hill has been transparent about her struggle with anxiety and depression following an international shoplifting scandal. He and teammates Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball were arrested after stealing items from three stores during the team’s trip to China to play at Georgia Tech in November 2017, resulting in one-season suspensions, and he shared his emotions with the Los Angeles Times in April of 2021.
Hill played his last game with the Bruins on January 30, 2021, scoreless in 11 minutes against Oregon State. He never adapted again as UCLA qualified for the Final Four.
“I’m just like, no, I have to take this break,” Hill told The Times later that spring, citing the pressure he had put on himself to succeed. “It was a tough decision to make, but once I knew what I had to do, it wasn’t hard, as I figured it out, like, this is going to help me.”
Hill — a 6-foot-10 center known for his athletic rim protection — graduated Centennial in 2017 after averaging 18.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game his senior year.
He arrived at Westwood for his freshman year that same fall and donned the redshirt for the 2017-18 season before playing 77 games at UCLA over three seasons, totaling 40 starts averaging 6.5 points, 6.4 career rebounds and eight double-doubles.