UCLA freshman forward Reeves Nelson said during Tuesday’s press conference that he would play in the Pac-10 Tournament, after sitting out the regular season-ending road trip at Arizona and Arizona State because of apprehension about further injuring his left eye.
Nelson, who along with teammate Tyler Honeycutt was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team, had surgery in late February to repair a slight retinal tear which caused him to miss matchups with Oregon and Oregon State.
He was expected to return for the Arizona swing, but fears about hereditary retina problems – Nelson’s grandmother, a pivotal figure in his life, has two detached retinas and is legally blind – kept him sidelined despite being medically cleared.
Nelson discussed the situation with his mother early during the week and she gave him the go-ahead.
“She talked to the doctor one more time over the phone, and she just feels more at ease with it, and if my mom’s OK with it, I’m OK with it,” Nelson said. “There’s always a risk I guess. After talking to my mom, (I realized) you can’t really be scared of things. You have to stand up to your fears.”
In Nelson’s absence, the Bruins struggled, losing three of four games, including a 78-73 loss to Arizona in which they blew a 14-point lead.
“It was difficult to watch the team lose a few games in a row,” said Nelson, who averages 11 points and 5.5 rebounds. “It wasn’t necessarily because I wasn’t playing – I’m not going to flatter myself that much. But I think with me playing we have a better chance to win.”
Nelson, who said one of the reasons he is returning is because of his admiration for senior guard Michael Roll, knows he’ll have to be worked back in as he rebuilds his stamina.
“I’m sure I’ll be a little winded when I first go in there because no matter how much you run in practice it’s always a little different in the game with all the adrenaline and whatnot,” Nelson said. “I’ll just try to get through that and get to my second wind as soon as possible.”