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Kentucky basketball walk-on, pitcher Ben Jordan dies at 22

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky

Nov 8, 2019; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Tyrese Maxey (3) forward Keion Brooks (12) and forward Ben Jordan (33) celebrate at the end of the game against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at Rupp Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky says Ben Jordan, a right-handed pitcher who played last season on the men’s basketball team because of a shortage of players, has died. He was 22 years old.

The school announced Jordan’s death on Monday in a release and a Kentucky baseball spokesman said coach Nick Mingione has spoken with the player’s family. The school release did not specify a cause of death.

Mingione said in a release Tuesday that the program was devastated to learn of Jordan’s passing.

“There are no words to express the shock and heartache our team is feeling with the loss of Ben,” the coach said. “He was an absolute joy to coach and be around. ... We are all hurting and will find a way carry Ben’s legacy forward and keep him in our heart always.”

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Jordan joined Kentucky’s basketball team last season when it lacked enough players for practice. He played just one minute in two games, but practicing against 6-11 Nick Richards was cited in helping Richards become a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection by The Associated Press and coaches.

“Ben impacted our team last season in so many ways with his kind heart, his big smile and his wonderful personality,” coach John Calipari said in a release. “He cared so deeply about this place and it meant so much to him to be a part of this team.”

The Olive Hill, Kentucky, native had a 7.27 earned run average in 2019 after pitching 8 2/3 innings over 10 games and allowed eight hits, eight runs (seven earned), 12 walks with eight strikeouts. Jordan redshirted his 2018 freshman season while recovering from an injury.

Jordan was on Kentucky’s 35-man baseball active roster last spring but had not joined the team because of his basketball obligations before the season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. He also made the SEC spring sports Academic Honor Roll.