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Former Amphi basketball star Jackson Ruai, 21, dies in car wreck

Jackson Ruai, a former Amphitheater High School basketball standout, died in a car crash in El Paso on Saturday night, his family said. He was 21.

Ruai, a 6-foot-4-inch star for the Panthers who graduated from Amphi in 2019, recently finished up his sophomore season at Oakland City University in Indiana.

Ruai was born in Egypt. His family moved to Tucson from South Sudan on June 16, 2004, when he was 3 years old.

“Just looking back at my parents, that was the best decision they made,” Ruai told the Star in 2019. “For me to even be provided with these opportunities, it means a lot to me.”

Ruai played soccer as a boy in Tucson before switching exclusively to basketball in the fifth grade. By the eighth grade, he had a new goal: to play the sport in college.

He received scholarship offers from Grand Canyon, Nevada, Utah Valley, Portland State and UC Davis while in high school. As a senior, he led Amphi Panthers to a 20-5 season and the Class 4A Gila Region championship.

Ruai was also AAU teammates with former Salpointe Catholic standouts Majok Deng, who’s now at Pepperdine, and Harvard’s Evan Nelson.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up by Ruai’s family to cover the cost of the funeral services in Tucson. The family plans to bury him in Sudan.

Contact sports producer

Justin Spears at 573-4312 or

On Twitter: @JustinESports

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Sports producer

Justin writes stories and produces digital content about UA football and basketball and high school football. A Tucson native, Justin graduated from the UA in 2017 and is the host of the Wildcast Podcast and a radio host on ESPN Tucson.

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