UCLA Bruins forward Jalen Hill went on his Instagram account and posted a six-minute video to announce his retirement from the game of basketball. The 6’10” junior cited his depression and anxiety as to why he took time away from the team since January.
“I just had to distance myself because the headspace I was in, it was damaging the team,” Hill freely expressed in the clip. “So I didn’t want to restrict them from achieving their goals, too.” In his absence, the Bruins made a valiant run in the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball tournament and arrived as far as the Final Four before losing the tourney’s eventual runner-up, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Four years ago, Hill was one of three UCLA basketball players involved in an overseas shoplifting scandal that almost had the trio facing heavy time in a Chinese prison. Eventually, then-President Donald Trump got involved and alleged that he played a role in the men’s release from China. But shortly after that episode, Hill says he started experiencing bouts of anxiety and depression.
He shared that his mental health suffered more with the events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic but pushed through 14 games in the 2020-2021 season before he had to step away and focus on himself. “Like, I never felt this happy before in my life,” Hill said. “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.”
He continued, “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.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, with Hill’s departure from the team, a scholarship slot has accordingly opened up, and a graduate transfer student could fill it. But for Hill, he has left that life behind and wants to be a sounding board for others who think they are alone in their mental health struggles, too.
“For the people that have anxiety and depression problems, feel free to hit me up if you don’t have anybody else to talk to,” he offered to his viewers. “I ain’t saying I have everything figured out — I don’t have the keys or nothing like that — but I’ve for sure been through it and I do have some wisdom on all the mental health problems.”