Former UCLA basketball player Jalen Hill has died unexpectedly at the age of 22.
He was one of three players who President Donald Trump helped free from China in 2017 while facing up to 10 years in prison for shoplifting. The other two players were Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball.
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
“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump?” President Donald Trump tweeted at the time. “They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
The three players went on to thank President Trump for saving them from Chinese prison. Hill responded, “Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home.”
Hill, who stood 6-foot-10, recently went missing while in Costa Rica. There are no other details released about his death.
UCLA Men’s Basketball coach Mick Cronin said, “The news of Jalen Hill’s passing is heartbreaking. 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.”
In a statement from his family, they said, “We know Jalen has played a part in the lives of so many people. 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.”
Hill reportedly battled mental health issues. After ending his career at UCLA, Hill said, “I just had to distance myself because the headspace I was in, it was damaging the team. So I didn’t want to restrict them from achieving their goals, too.”
More on this story via Daily Wire:
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”…
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.
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