UCLA's Jalen Hill Retiring from Basketball Because of Anxiety, Depression

Blake SchusterContributor IApril 6, 2021

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 19: UCLA Bruins forward/center Jalen Hill (24) celebrates after scoring with a dunk during the second half of the mens college basketball game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and UCLA Bruins on December 19, 2020, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, OH. Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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UCLA forward Jalen Hill announced his retirement from basketball Tuesday via Instagram, citing anxiety and depression among the reasons he's leaving the sport behind.

Hill, who stepped away from the team for personal reasons in February, said he has been planning to announce his decision for a while but waited until his teammates completed their run to the Final Four out of respect for their journey.

"I just had to distance myself because the headspace I was in, it was damaging the team," Hill said in a nearly six-minute video he posted. "So I didn't want to restrict them from achieving their goals, too."

The redshirt junior said his mental health issues began following his arrest in China in 2017. Hill was detained with teammates LiAngelo Ball and Cody Riley for alleged shoplifting while abroad for an NCAA game against Georgia Tech.

He said his anxiety and depression became more problematic as the coronavirus pandemic began surging across the globe. Hill played 14 games in 2020-21 before stepping away from the team.

He averaged 6.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest.

Since stepping away from basketball, Hill said he's been able to refocus his priorities and not worry about living up to others' expectations:

"Like, I never felt this happy before in my life. Like, I just wake up and I'm just happy to be alive and it sounds crazy to say, but it’s just true and I've never felt like this in my life, and it was hard to me to go back to the team when I was trying to go back to a past life when I was trying to live up to somebody's expectations of me, trying to live up to somebody's perception of how my life should be instead of just being who I am.

"That's the greatest gift you could ever give to anybody is just being who you are and I was doing stuff that was not me, so when I figured out that I couldn't really go back, especially all the good stuff that’s been happening to me recently."

Hill entered college as the No. 65 overall recruit in 2017, according to 247Sports Composite, and settled on the Bruins after considering offers from Arizona, Oregon, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC.