Nelson booted from basketball team

Apparently, Ben Howland has reached his last straw.

After announcing that he was suspending returning leading scorer and rebounder Reeves Nelson indefinitely on Tuesday, Howland dismissed the junior all-conference selection on Friday.

“After much thought and deliberation, I have made the decision to dismiss Reeves Nelson from the UCLA Men’s Basketball Team effective immediately,” Howland said in a release. “This decision is not one that I take lightly, but it is in the best interest of both the program and the student-athlete.”

Nelson was suspended indefinitely on Nov. 14 but reinstated just two days later after missing the team’s loss to MIddle Tennessee State. After missing the team flight to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, Nelson was suspended for the first half of the Bruins’ win over Chaminade.

After playing 51 minutes in UCLA’s following two games against No. 14 Kansas and No. 15 Michigan in Maui, Nelson played just 10 minutes in a UCLA win over Pepperdine and 12 minutes in a loss to Texas.

“This continues a trend of very disappointing behavior by Reeves,” Howland said in a on release on Tuesday justifying Nelson’s suspension. “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.”

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  • Anon

    What could he have done in the interim to get booted? I assume he was not allowed to practice with the team during the suspension. Is that not the case?

  • Anonymous

    This is one of those times when it is very difficult to just trust in the coach’s decisions. Without having insider info, hard to see the terrible things he’s done worthy of getting axed.

  • bruincheerleader

    this is just terribly sad for all BRUINS…nelson was a beast at times on the court and that is meant in a great way…boy you could roster a great starting five from all the transfers and kick-offs howland has had in his ll years…sad… and i do blame the coach…he is the adult and nelson was the kid…shouldn’t the adult in the room be the one to get this to work?…isn’t that what great coaches do?…howland?…not so much!

  • Idiot Blog Commenter

    Aren’t the things you don’t know about and have no insider access to precisely the kinds of things that had accumulated over time and forced CBH’s hand?

    Apart from being immature and a poor teammate (which was clearly evident in public)…I’m fairly certain Nelson did himself no favors by being late to team mtgs, missing buses and flights/etc. He had his chances and he pissed them away – too bad for him, but hopefully he can grow up and learn from the mess he created.

    That’s an extra scholie to work with next season, at least.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve seen enough of Reeves to believe this was the correct decision. I also think that, if we saw the other conduct behind the scenes, we would all be wondering why Howland didn’t act sooner.

  • Bob Bruin

    Coach Ben Howland needs to be more accountable for his actions. The university spends much time and effort in recruiting and fostering top notch talent, and he has been losing player after player. Losing a player, especially on such a small roster, is an enormous deal. Not to mention losing our best player.

  • bibs

    Give Coach Howland credit for giving Nelson many chances to get his act together.Will Josh Smith learn from this or will he continue to eat his way out of his scholarship?

  • Anonymous

    @bibs: Maybe we should cut Smith’s scholarship in half. Just have him get the “Room” part of “Room and Board”.

  • Anonymous

    Reeves needs to grow up. How long have we heard about his childish behavior and poor attitude? Since high school? I believe Howland thought he would eventually grow out of that stuff, apparently he misjudged him. UCLA and Howland is not a place for princesses; put hard work in and it will pay off. Reeves should have manned up and earned his minutes back, instead he probably got all bent outta shape and made things worse.

  • BSKB

    Sorry to see him leave. Not at all surprised. From what little I’ve seen of him this season, Nelson has been his own worst enemy. Howland gave him plenty of chances.

  • MoeBruins

    Sad day for Reeves Nelson. Maybe a change in scenery will help.

    Those asking what happened in the last week? Answer: he finished his finals. I think UCLA thought the decent thing to do was let him finish the quarter before making it official.

  • PUSC 3

    Can he block and catch? Reeves should switch to football, tight end like Tony Gonzales and Antonio Gates

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    What a shame for all parts involved …

    Wasn’t it Howland who was quoted directly on this site in pre-season interview with something like this:
    “And NO ONE has worked harder than Reeves this past summer. Playing against NBA talent, living in the weight room, etc. and etc. …”

    And remember the Reeves who bounced from his face off the floor on Natl TV? How many teeth chipped, stitches, scratches and bruises? I mean, how many starters can we count as TRUE FRESHMAN under Howland? Is there any better living description of “blue-collar” & “lunch bucket” than Reeves Nelson?

    Was there a more unanimous pre-season Pac-12 MVP?

    What gives all of a sudden? Surely, he was getting those last touches on the “tat” before the Hawaii flight left. OK, maybe not. But sadly, the pouting and attitude and hoisting shots from downtown — much of that was easily witnessed on TV.

    But something’s just not right here, and I don’t think it’s all on Reeves.

    The Wear twins better do the same as above — live in the gym, play vs. the best talent possible, live up to their McDonald’s All-American hype and maybe even slap a few tats on those soggy white bodies — because I think THEY ARE A BIG PART of what’s all going on here in terms of measuring sticks and behavioral standards.

    Sorry, but Reeves they are not. They seem more like great kids, ultra-coachable and … in truth, just a little bigger, better Brendan Lanes.

    I mean, who would you invite home for supper or to date your sister? That, unanimously, would probably be a Wear brother or Lane.

    Who would you take with you to a street fight? Have rooting out on the block for that huge, crucial rebound? … And, stay way the hell away from your sister?

    That would be Reeves Nelson.
    Godspeed, young man. And I truly hope — and with no sarcasm here — to see you get things together and thrive somewhere else, as hard as that is to say.

  • definitely the rockies for ucla

    has there ever been a more “rocky” period for ucla athletics than the past 2-3 months?

  • Anonymous


    Have you watched the games this season? There is a huge difference between being a unanimous pre-season Pac-12 MVP and the way Reeves has played in every game this season.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    @anon1225: Yes. And I agree.
    Still, how does the cheese slide completely off the cracker so quickly?
    I truly hope it’s not drugs.
    I know that sounds awfully loud for this site, but that’s my only experience over the years with coming-of-age talents in all walks of life that behave in such a manner, literally, over night.

    That is, unless it’s somehow more on Howland, too?
    Time will tell. And usually not too far down the road.

  • la_bruin

    I’m certain Coach Howland is VERY aware of Reeves talent level. More so than any one here.

    I’m confident that Coach Howland carefully & deliberately provided him with every opportunity to get with the program & improve his behavior to a level that was synonymous with UCLA Basketball. No one here knows exactly how many opportunities were afforded.

    I must believe that this decision was something he conferred with his assistants on, the administration, and other team players. This must have reached the brink of no return…and Reeves and crossed it. No one here knows the extent of his misbehavior and what we do know is pretty outrageous.

    I’m positive that all the time, effort, and coaching that Coach Howland put into Reeves was not lost on the assistant coaches, the athletic dept, or himself in discussing the decision to cut loose our leading scorer. Nobody here is aware of those conversations.

    I’d say it’s probably best that we take the word of our well-respected, highly experienced, historically-proven coach instead of that of the armchair coaches. Don’t you think?

  • miltk

    what’s done is done. no use ruminating over this pro or con or why. now on to it’s effect, where recruiters from other schools will note this and give it their own turn. the staff will have to do triple overtime mending the image of the program and ben, because like it or not ben’s image is what this will be all about moving on.

  • Paper Lion

    This gives a whole new meaning to the Sports Illustrated jinks. You can’t remove this one at the tattoo parlor.

  • anonymous
  • anonymous

    Why didn’t the team leader sit down with Reeves and discuss the win-win, lose-lose thing and about how the team can win the Pac-12 with him and about how any draft potential might be affected by his behavior. Ohhhh yeah. Reeves WAS the team leader. The team leader is now a second year transfer, a thief, or a sophmore. Where can I buy tickets?

  • MichaelRyerson

    I like cheese and crackers as well as the next guy but I think Reeves needs to grow up and I think Howland has done a generally good job at balancing the one-and-dones, the entitlement junkies and the merchants of flab. it’s a different world from when Coach Wooden was stalking the sidelines and the proof of Howland’s effectiveness is in the Collisons, Westbrooks and Loves not in the Stanbacks and Nelsons.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    la_Bruin: So, when do you begin questioning the coaching side of things?

    One transfer?
    Soon to be FIVE (Moser, Stanback, Gordon, Morgan … surely Reeves somewhere, too — hopefully not at AZ
    Then add the other numbers from Jon’s recent post in.
    Sorry, but how do all these numbers add up, la_bruin?

    Please don’t tell me Howland has earned some lifetime pass of sorts?

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    MRyer: Are you as confident in Howland’s abilities as the free pass he had for ANYTHING during the 3 straight final fours?

    And I’ll admit, that of all that have moved on, it’s the amount of Bruin blood that Reeves spilled that is the hardest to see just walk down the road.

  • MPP Bruin

    Interesting how the comments on this story are shaking out and how they place blame on Howland or Nelson. I obviously have no idea what goes on in practice or the locker room. All I know is that 1) Nelson seems to have some issues with stability and consistency and 2) this seems to continue a pattern of Howland players leaving early for one reason or another.

  • Anonymous

    Wow-wow-wow, ucla of the rockies, you’re wrong…you forgot Carlino in your list of transfers and the big kid from Canada. You might as well count all the guys that are leaving early for no guaranteed money in the NBA like Ariza, Luc, Lee, Honeycutt, and Alfred Aboya was out the door to play in Europe before Howland begged and pleaded for him to stay one more year. Howland will hopefully be the next transfer in the next few months.

  • Lifelong Bruin Fan

    I think a lot of people are forgetting that while the kids want to come to UCLA (obviously or they wouldn’t have signed up in the first place), what they really want to do is PLAY PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL. The fact that most of these kids left early for the most part has NOTHING TO DO WITH HOWLAND and everything to do with the fact that they wanted an opportunity to play professionally, whether they had a guaranteed contract or not. You know why? Because most of them are confident in their ability to get signed, and rightfully so, especially since they have “UCLA” on their resume. Ariza and Luc fall into this category, and although I don’t know what’s going on in the NBA yet, Honeycutt and Lee will probably also fall into this category.

    As for the kids who have transferred, Gordon and Nelson are squarely in the category of head cases. That leaves Moser, Stanback, Carlino, and maybe one or two that I’m forgetting who left because they didn’t envision themselves with playing time here or they didn’t like Howland or who knows what else. Stanback as a freshman was not a standout, and when he left before his sophomore season I thought that it was probably for the best. I haven’t seen him at UNLV but I’m happy for his success, obviously he’s put in some hard work (but let’s also not forget that he’s now in his 5th year). Moser–never got to see him play in his one year so I can’t comment, but from what I’ve read he had overly high expectations of playing right out of the gate when he wasn’t ready yet. Carlino has an overly involved father who probably guided his decision to leave.

    For the people who will try to compare CBH to what happened during Coach Wooden’s time, you are forgetting that most of the guys back then either were not even eligible to play as freshman or had to work themselves into the rotation by their junior or senior year. Being able to get significant minutes in your freshman and even sophomore years was not a given! Remember Coach Wooden also had a very short rotation, so only 7 or at most 8 guys even got to see the floor.

    If there is a reasonable criticism of CBH to be made regarding recruiting, IMHO one is that he has not secured enough good shooters. Every team needs at least one or two deadeye shooting threats, and unfortunately the current squad has zero. In fact since Michael Roll left, we haven’t had what I would call a “pure shooter.” Honeycutt was adequate last year as our deep threat, and Anderson has impressively worked himself up to a level where he is consistent from outside, but despite this, we haven’t had pure shooters, shooters that can make shots even if they are blindfolded. The game against Michigan was a good example of playing against players who were not necessarily great athletes but had great shooting touch (there were two guys in particular that lit us up from outside). We need to start consistently recruiting guys like this who will not necessarily be standout spectacular athletes but have great shooting touch and feel for the game. Ultimately basketball is about putting the ball in the hole, and good shooting touch makes up for a lot of deficiencies, and also puts pressure on the opposition to defend the entire floor.

    UCLA in the early 80s had a problem that Al Maguire described as “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” What he meant was we were recruiting a lot of stars but not enough guys who were willing to do play team ball, sacrifice their stats for the good of the team. This mentality needs to be present for us to be successful. Despite criticism directed towards the Wear twins, they fit this mold and will be great assets to this team over the next three years. (I see them as 4-year players.) Anderson demonstrates this attitude. Lamb fits this mold. Actually most seem like good, hardworking kids who are good team players. Nelson unfortunately just did not understand this concept, it seems.

    At any rate, this season is not shaping up to be the one we all imagined, but with the loss of Honeycutt, Lee, and now Nelson, and with Smith at half-speed (literally and figuratively), any team would be decimated. But with the removal of this distraction now permanent, I anticipate the team will start playing better despite the loss of Nelson’s talent.

  • MichaelRyerson

    Thank you, Lifelong Bruin Fan, for taking the time to put that thoughtful piece together. good reading.

  • Lifelong Bruin Fan

    Thanks Michael, I enjoy reading your thoughtful comments as well.