Reeves Nelson was dismissed from the UCLA basketball team Friday after twice having been suspended for insubordinate behavior this season.
Coach Ben Howland said he told Nelson in a morning meeting. The 20-year-old junior forward from Modesto, Calif., was currently serving his second suspension.
”Reeves did not want to leave. He’s disappointed,” Howland said in a teleconference from Anaheim, where the Bruins practiced ahead of Saturday’s game against Pennsylvania at Honda Center. ”But he also understands that this is the final decision. This is it. We are moving forward without him.”
Nelson was averaging 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Bruins, who at 2-5 are off to their worst start since the 2002-03 season.
Howland had kept Nelson off-limits to reporters recently.
After his meeting with Howland, Nelson tweeted, ”Here I am, on the road again….. There I gooooooo. Turn the page,” quoting lyrics from the Bob Seger song ”Turn the Page.”
Several hours earlier, he had tweeted, ”I know one thing for damn sure. My love for the game will never be suspended. Back to the lab again…”
The bio section on Nelson’s Twitter feed says, ”Craziness is like heaven.”
Nelson’s attitude varied greatly during his career, ranging from high-energy team player to petulant and pouting. He arrived in Westwood as a 17-year-old, younger than many college freshmen.
Howland indicated that Nelson’s behavior on the bench in UCLA’s 10-point loss to Texas last weekend was a key factor in cutting him loose. Nelson didn’t play the entire second half. He was laughing and pointing at people in the crowd who were chanting his name.
”I wanted to make sure he finished his finals,” Howland said, ”and to make a final decision on what we were going to do once he completed that.”
The coach said he anticipated Nelson passing his current classes, although he didn’t know his future plans. Nelson could remain at UCLA, transfer to another program and sit out the NCAA-mandated year, or turn pro.
”If he doesn’t behave appropriately and fit in, there’s no reason this couldn’t happen again,” Howland said. ”He’s got to make some changes.”
Nelson was the Bruins’ leading scorer and rebounder last season, but he fell out of the starting lineup early this season as a result of his behavior problems. He was first suspended for five days last month. After being reinstated on Nov. 16, Nelson missed the team’s flight to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational and arrived later.
He was suspended again this week while the Bruins were taking finals.
”We’re trying to pull him along and kind of pick him up,” forward David Wear said Tuesday. ”All of us try to a certain point, but if it keeps happening again and again and again, eventually everyone is just like, `Hey, what can we do?”’
Still, Howland didn’t want to give up easily on Nelson.
”I’m an optimist who wants to try and help kids grow and improve, but this came to the point where this is too much of a negative and a distraction,” the coach said, adding that he would continue to try to help Nelson in the future.
Nelson was friends with some of his teammates off the court, although Howland said he thinks Nelson’s absence will be a positive.
”When I suspended him the first time, the two practices we had after that were the best two practices we had of the year,” he said. ”Hopefully this is going to be a unifying thing for our team.”