Reeves Nelson suspended indefinitely from UCLA basketball team
By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times
10:46 AM PST, December 6, 2011
Reeves Nelson, UCLA's leading scorer and rebounder last season, has been suspended for the second time this season, basketball coach Ben Howland announced in a statement released Tuesday morning.
Nelson, a 6-8 junior forward, had already served a suspension last month for insubordinate behavior. Since then, he missed the team plane to Hawaii, where the Bruins played in the Maui Classic, and was seen during last Saturday’s loss to Texas pointing to, and laughing with, fans in the stands who were chanting his name.
Nelson, who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated's West Coast version of its college basketball issue, played only 12 minutes in the 69-59 loss to Texas at the Sports Arena -- none in the second half -- and was scoreless.
The Bruins (2-5) are off until they host Penn on Saturday at the Honda Center.
This suspension, according to the UCLA statement, is for conduct unbecoming a member of the UCLA basketball team.
“This continues a trend of very disappointing behavior by Reeves,” Howland said in the statement. “I personally have worked hard with him to illustrate the importance of the code of conduct for our student-athletes, as well as the ramifications for violating it. I am disappointed that he has continued to fall short of my expectations.”
There is no specific timetable for the reevaluation of Nelson’s status with the team. Howland has a regularly scheduled weekly media conference at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
On Monday, Howland spoke to Times columnist T.J. Simers and said he had made mistakes in his handling of Nelson; Howland seemed particularly displeased with Nelson's behavior on the bench Saturday.
Nelson, very active on Twitter, had only one this morning, saying, "8 AM final this morning. Yippeeeee."
UCLA's Ben Howland admits mistakes, says, 'We're going to fix it'
Basketball coach is upset beyond the 2-5 record, saying Reeves Nelson's behavior is 'totally uncharacteristic' of what's expected, and Josh Smith 'didn't do the work' to stay fit in off-season.
The Los Angeles Times
8:35 PM PST, December 5, 2011
His UCLA office was stifling. Ben Howland went through three bottles of water while fidgeting there on the hot seat.
"I like it warm,'' he says, which is good, because it's time to turn up the heat on Howland.
The Bruins were the pick to win the Pac-12 Conference this season, but right now they are as disappointing as a Rick Neuheisel-coached team.
"We're 2-5 and we're UCLA and that's not a good position to be in," says Howland. "Yeah, I feel the heat — the heat I put on myself. We've got to do a lot better than what we are doing, and we will."
Nice speech, but atop all the losses there's the feeling Howland's team might be getting away from him.
"No, it's not," Howland insists. "We're going to fix it."
Yet his two top players have done nothing so far but disappoint. In addition to Josh Smith taking the off-season off to eat away his effectiveness as a player, there were disturbing media reports over the weekend about Reeves Nelson.
Broadcasters and reporters noted that Nelson, suspended once already this season for his poor behavior, was sitting on the bench and laughing it up while his teammates were losing to Texas.
For a guy who likes to call timeouts as much as Howland does, what's stopping him now?
Why is Nelson still wearing a UCLA jersey?
As much of a control freak as Howland appears on the sideline, it appears his players do not share his intensity.
And that has to be troubling to Howland with pressure mounting on the basketball program now that football has been so disappointing.
The Bruins lost to Loyola Marymount, and Steve Lavin wasn't within a thousand miles of the building. And Loyola Marymount was without its top player.
Then Howland suspended Nelson indefinitely, the Bruins losing to Middle Tennessee and scheduled next to go to Maui with possible opponents like Duke, Kansas and Michigan.
Nothing cuts an indefinite suspension to one game like the urgency to win again.
Down 0-2, as soon as Howland reinstated Nelson, the kid missed the team bus and plane to Hawaii. Who misses the chance to go to Hawaii?
Who makes such a blunder right after having an indefinite suspension lifted?
Why didn't Howland tell the kid to stay home after missing the team plane?
"In retrospect, you're probably right for sure," says Howland. "But I think my charge is to try and help these guys."
Last week against Texas, Nelson irritated Howland so much that Howland decided at halftime not to play Nelson the rest of the game. The Bruins went on to lose and Nelson appeared unfazed.
Howland says he was unaware of Nelson's behavior on the bench, which included pointing to folks in the crowd and laughing, according to media reports.
Was the kid challenging Howland's authority?
"No question," Howland says. "And no question his behavior is totally uncharacteristic of what we want from a UCLA basketball player representing this history and tradition.
"It's something that is going to be dealt with when we get together again. It's been an ongoing problem the past two years which has gotten worse.
"And I get it. I understand where people are on this. I know people are disenchanted that this could be happening here. If you knew how miserable I was, you'd know where this whole thing is headed. I just want a guy who puts the team first and understands what a privilege and honor it is to wear this uniform at UCLA. But he hasn't gotten that yet."
As for Smith, Howland says, "We had high expectations for him, but he didn't do the work necessary in the off-season to be in the condition necessary."
Is this UCLA basketball?
Howland had UCLA in the Final Four three times early on while spoiling everyone here. But the last few years it's been a struggle to recapture the magic.
"I really do believe we're going to get this turned around," he says.
What does that mean?
"I believe we'll be competitive in every game."
Is this UCLA basketball?
"The only way we can get into the tournament now based on our record is to win the conference tournament," he says. "So we have to evolve as a team, grow and come together. And we will."
That gives Howland until March to get things right, about the same time folks can expect Dan Guerrero to hire a football coach.
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