Basketball Legend Gone Far Too Soon

Ruben Douglas played all four years of high school basketball career in Burbank at Bellarmine-Jefferson High.

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Ruben Douglas at the University of New Mexico. (Photo courtesy New Mexico Sports Information)

Ruben Douglas, who was arguably the best basketball player to ever graduate from a high school in Burbank has died in Costa Rica. He was just 44 years old.


Douglas, who grew up in Altadena, spent all four years of his high school career at now-closed Bellarmine-Jefferson High.


As a senior at Bell-Jeff, Douglas averaged 34.6 points per game. He scored 1,073 points for the season, which was the best in the state for the year and is the seventh best for a single season for any player in CIF Southern Section history.

Douglas was the CIF Southern Section Division IV Player of the Year even though his team didn’t reach the CIF championship game.


He finished his high school career with 2,578 points which at the time of his graduation ranked in the top-10 in state history.


Douglas moved on to the University of Arizona following his graduation from Bell-Jeff in 1998.


He started 14 games and averaged eight points a game as a freshman.


He transferred to the University of New Mexico following.


With the Lobos, Douglas was a three-time All-Mountain West selection. During the 2002-03 season, he led the NCAA men’s Division 1 basketball with a 28.0 points per game average.

Ruben Douglas in 2019 in Italy for a reunion of the 2005 Climamio Bologna championship team. Photo courtesy Mauro Donati.


Last month Douglas was named to the Mountain West Conference’s 25th Anniversary Team, which includes top players in the conference since 2000.

In three years at New Mexico, Douglas scored 1,782 points, which is sixth best in school history and the best ever over a three-year span.

Following his college career, Douglas was surprisingly not selected in the NBA Draft.


He did continue his career, playing in some of the top leagues in Europe.


He started his career with Panionios in Greece in 2004.


Douglas then moved to Italy in 2005.


In Game 4 of the 2005 Italian League Finals, we hit a three-pointer at the buzzer that gave Bologna the league title and its second championship in club history. The shot was reviewed by the officials of the game in an era that preceded the video assistance referee that is now commonly used in sports throughout the world.

Ruben Douglas in Italy in 2019 for a reunion of the Climamio Bologna championship team. Photo courtesy Mauro Donati.


Douglas moved to Russia in 2006, where he led Dynamo Moscow to the BKT EuroCup over Greek power Aris Thessaloniki. Douglas was named MVP of the tournament. He later went on to play in Spain and Turkey.


“Just heard the sad news about Ruben when I landed in New York. Don’t know the details, but gone way too early. Brought a lot of joy to the UNMLobos fans everywhee. Rip, Rube,” Douglas’ college coach Fran Fraschilla wrote on the social media platform X.

Douglas also played internationally for Panama, his father Rogelio’s native country.