Less than a month after Josh Hill ’05 watched his former classmates graduate, the Yale community was shaken when Hill, a men’s basketball player, died in a car accident May 27 in Estelle Manor Township, N.J.

Hill, who was in the class of 2004 before taking a year off, was driving on Route 637 when he veered off the road and crashed into a bridge abutment. He was thrown from the car, which traveled another 159 feet before coming to a stop.

“This was a devastating loss to the Yale community, particularly to the students and the athletic family,” Yale Athletic Director Tom Beckett said on the University’s athletics Web site. “Josh was a popular and energizing force of the Yale community.”

Hill, who played center for the Bulldogs, missed most of the 2002-2003 season and all of last season due to injuries but was expected to return this fall.

“He was a tremendous player and an even better person,” Yale men’s basketball head coach James Jones said. “He was the kind of guy that made everyone laugh and put everyone at ease.”

In 2001-2002, Hill played a key role in Yale’s Ivy League championship run, averaging 4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds off the bench. He recorded a career-high 21 points against Brown and scored a team-high 14 points in a playoff game against the University of Pennsylvania.

“He played such a big part that year,” current men’s basketball captain Alex Gamboa ’05 said. “He came up with the big rebounds and the big baskets. He always gave 110 percent. We’d be winning championships every year if everyone gave as much as he did.”

Hill, a native of Wilington, Del., was also a first-team All-State selection in his junior and senior years at the Sanford School.

Numbers and awards aside, Hill was one of the Bulldogs’ emotional leaders and will be sorely missed for his spirit and determination.

“He was the biggest cheerleader on the team,” Gamboa said. “He’s a competitor and obviously he wanted to play, but when he wasn’t playing, he was always cheering on the team. As captain, I was going to look to him for a lot of leadership this year. He’s really good with the young guys and would have been great with the freshmen.”

And while Hill will be remembered as the quintessential team player, he will also forever be thought of as a great person and a kind friend.

“Josh truly lived in his own world, but it was a world he welcomed people in with open arms and usually a big bear hug,” Erika Hockinson ’04, a close friend of Hill, wrote in a tribute posted on the Yale athletics’ Web site. “He made me laugh every time I was with him, kept me up endless nights talking, danced our dance with me every chance he got, and always seemed to amaze me with his huge heart and way with others.”

A memorial fund in Hill’s name was set up this summer to raise money for the members of his family, who are planning to move cross-country to be closer with relatives.