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UCLA basketball team dismisses Reeves Nelson

Coach Ben Howland says the situation 'came to a point where there was too much negative distraction.' Nelson's mother, Sheila, says her son behaved poorly and takes responsibility for his actions.

December 09, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • UCLA forward Reeves Nelson, who was suspended by coach Ben Howland earlier this week, was dismissed from the team on Friday.
UCLA forward Reeves Nelson, who was suspended by coach Ben Howland earlier… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Sheila Nelson spoke to Ben Howland on Friday morning, and it wasn't an easy telephone conversation.

The UCLA basketball coach told Nelson that her son Reeves Nelson had been dismissed from the Bruins basketball team.

"Reeves behaved poorly," Sheila Nelson said later in the day during a telephone conversation. "He admits to that and he's taking full responsibility for his actions. He still wants to be on the team. But quite frankly, I love my son, but he just turned 20 and he's been a boy in a man's body since he was 14 and there are things he needs to work on, and he will work on them."

Howland said he did not take his action Friday lightly.

Nelson, a 6-foot-9 junior forward who led the Bruins in scoring and rebounding last season, was a major reason why UCLA (2-5) was the preseason pick to win the Pac-12 Conference. But he was serving his second "indefinite" suspension of the season when he and Howland met Friday morning.

"I've sat with Reeves multiple times," Howland said. "It's just a culmination of everything. In fairness to the team, there's a point where we've got to move forward and do what's best for the team. I want to help Reeves and am hoping he, in his future, can continue to grow as a player and be able to fit into a team and organization and be able to handle all the things that go with it."

Sheila Nelson said she had no issues with how Howland treated her son — except she wished the coach had been harder on him sooner.

"I wish Coach had asked for more accountability early on," she said. "Coach walked a fine line and I wanted Reeves to be handled at the first sign of anything.

"You've got these young kids and you have teachable moments, and it's hard when you've got a kid acting out on the court and at the same time, off the court, everyone loves him. I know Coach wants what is best for Reeves and I don't hold any ill will.

"I have spoken to Coach at times when he had a tear in his eye about Reeves, and that's nothing you can fake. That's real."

UCLA resumes play Saturday afternoon at Honda Center against Pennsylvania.

Howland said that if Nelson had been a professional, "he probably would have been dismissed earlier. This is education; we're supposed to help kids grow and mature. But this came to a point where there was too much negative distraction."

Nelson was first suspended last month — for five days — after he was late for a team meeting and exhibited other behavior that was deemed insubordinate. During that suspension, Nelson missed the team flight to Hawaii, where the Bruins played in a holiday tournament.

Last Saturday, Nelson didn't get off the bench in the second half of a 69-59 loss to Texas. In his 12 first-half minutes, Nelson had obviously missed a defensive assignment. Late in the game, Nelson was laughing and pointing to a small group of fans who were chanting his name.

Nelson has not spoken publicly since his first suspension. Efforts to reach him Friday failed.

Howland said Nelson has three options: to finish out this academic year at UCLA; to turn pro immediately and try to get a job playing in Europe; or to transfer to another college, sit out a season, and have a season and a half of eligibility remaining.

"Hopefully, for his sake, this is going to have a real drastic effect on understanding if he doesn't behave appropriately and fit in, there is no reason to believe this can't happen again," Howland said. "He's got to make some changes."

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