Tuesday, December 6, 2011

UCLA's Howland: Teachable moment for Nelson

Thanks to sydbruin for posting this story on BZ.

UCLA's Howland: Teachable moment for Nelson

The Orange County Register
Published: Dec. 6, 2011 Updated: 6:05 p.m.

Junior forward Reeves Nelson was suspended indefinitely Tuesday for his behavior during UCLA’s loss to Texas this past Saturday. It was his second suspension in three weeks. Might it be for good?

Coach Ben Howland met with reporters and spoke at length about Nelson and the circumstances surrounding his suspension.

Here are the highlights:

Has Nelson given you any indication he will change?
Ben Howland:
“I’m hoping it’s a teachable moment. His behavior on the bench Saturday was totally against what UCLA basketball and our program stands for. We’ll see. I met with Reeves this morning after his first final. In our meetings he was cordial. It’s a difficult time right now because he’s still got two more finals to complete.”

Have you ever had a kid you weren’t able to get through to like this?
“These kids aren’t pro athletes, first of all. They’re college kids. I work very hard to try to work with each kid. But as it reflects and affects the team as a whole, there is a point that enough is enough. Are we there at this point yet? We’ll see at our next meeting.”

Has it been a distraction?
“There’s no question it has. It’s been very difficult. It’s definitely a distraction. And we don’t need any distractions. It’s tough enough to come together without a distraction in the group.

“It’s a tough situation for them. They’re very close, good friends with Reeves off the floor. On the floor sometimes he loses his cool or will lose his head.”

Are you concerned about potentially losing your credibility with the players?
” It’s a very sensitive thing.”

What does Nelson need to do to get back on the team?
“Stay consistent. Last time he was suspended, when I did bring him back, he had his best practice the first day back. I thought last week’s practices he was falling back into some of the same patterns and we talked about it. And then he had a good showing Friday. Just be consistent, be consistent with attitude, with effort, with those things that are expected.”

He’s had episodes in the past. Is he different this year?
“I expected more. As players get older and they mature, there’s more expected in terms of maturity. I don’t know if some of this comes with the pressure and notoriety and expectation of being a returning all-league player. It’s hard for me to say.

“I think now when things should be improving every year and in every aspect, as a player on the floor but also you should grow and mature as a person. That’s kind of the expectation that I have.”

What exactly was he doing on the bench during the Texas game?
“When I’m in the middle of the game, I’m not looking down at the bench. But even with a minute to go, Reeves was visibly smiling on the bench and joking around. It was totally inappropriate. There were a couple other things that occurred during the game that I spoke with him about that I’m not going to share that were very much inappropriate. I’m not the only one that feels this way. My staff, we talk a lot about this.

“The problem is the distractions take you away from what I’m supposed to be doing, which is coaching everybody. As talented a player Reeves is, he’s got to to understand no one’s bigger than the the team. The team comes first. There are certain values and principles that are part of being a UCLA basketball player.”

If that’s the case, why not kick him off the team?
“This isn’t a pro deal. This kid that actually turned 20 this summer. It is something that we’ve been working and talking about for quite a while. At what point does that happen, that’s the all important question.

“There’s no question when I suspended him the first time and met with him, he was very contrite. I think there’s a lot of reflection that goes on when something like this happens. Today when I met with him he was very reserved.

“It is very difficult because I think that after things happen sometimes and he gets away from the emotion of the game or away from the outburst, he recognizes over and over again, I was wrong, I’ll do better.”

Are there a finite number of chances?
“Yeah. I’m not sure what that is. I’m not going to pigeonhole that. We’ll see where we are next time we meet.”

How will you measure his progress if he will not be with the team and you won’t be around him?
“I want him to have some time away. It’s a privilege and honor to be part of the UCLA basketball program.”

Are his issues at all related to academics?
“It’s basketball.”

Have you spoken with his parents and are they on your side?
“I talk to his parents all the time, especially his mom, and I’ll be contacting them tonight. They want what’s best for Reeves.”

Did his previous issues in high school concern you?
“His issues as far as we knew didn’t crop up until spring of his senior year. He committed to us as a junior. There was an issue off the floor that was concerning.”

Will he play Saturday?
“It’s unlikely he’ll play Saturday.”

Have you noticed any difference in the team when he’s playing as oppose to when he’s not?
“I actually thought in Maui he played well in stretches, in parts of the first two games. In our last game against Texas, he’s not playing to the level he’s capable of and he hasn’t been since we started. This has been a very difficult thing for me and it’s not fun. And it’s not fun for our team. You want to have consistency without this kind of distraction.”

What is Nelson’s explanation for his behavior?
“I don’t know about an explanation, typically Reeves is more apologetic than anything. That’s after you sit down with him. On the floor it may be a little different. I think where it becomes an issue is when he gets into competition and sometimes the adversity of situations are what he has difficulty dealing with.

In the past he’s responded with anger. Has it been different this year?
“Sometimes Reeves — this is the first time I’ve seen this ever — sometimes when he has adversity he’ll shut down and stop trying. That is baffling. I’ve never seen that in anybody.”

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