Whatever the record is for suspensions in a single season, UCLA's Reeves Nelson is surely on pace to shatter it.
UCLA announced Tuesday morning it has suspended Nelson indefinitely for a pattern of insubordinate behavior, the third suspension the junior forward has received since the season began last month. Nelson previously sat out the Bruins' Nov. 14 loss to Middle Tennessee State and then was also suspended for the first half of UCLA's Maui Invitational opener against Chaminade as a result of missing the team flight.
The latest suspension comes three days after Nelson played just 12 minutes — and none in the second half — during a 69-59 loss to Texas. Nelson reportedly was seen pointing to, and laughing with, fans in the stands who were chanting his name in hopes that he would be inserted in the game as the Longhorns were making a second-half comeback.
"This continues a trend of very disappointing behavior by Reeves," UCLA coach Ben Howland said in a statement. "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."
The mere fact that Howland has not dismissed Nelson entirely yet hints at how desperate UCLA is not to let this discouraging season spiral further.
Projected to win the league in the Pac-12's preseason poll, the Bruins have instead started 2-5 with their only wins coming against Division II Chaminade and West Coast Conference lightweight Pepperdine. They're shooting poorly from the perimeter, they're struggling to defend man-to-man off the dribble and they're not getting the consistent productivity they expected from a frontcourt that includes Nelson, the Wear twins and Joshua Smith.
In other years, a case could be made that dismissing Nelson would benefit UCLA simply by improving its team chemistry, but the reality is these Bruins aren't talented enough for that argument to be true. With mediocre point guards, wings who can't shoot and a center who's out of shape, UCLA will likely continue to struggle to be competitive with even above average teams unless Nelson is in the lineup and producing like last season.
Nelson led the team in scoring and rebounding last season at 13.9 points and 9.1 boards per game, but he is only averaging 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game this season. It remains to be seen whether he'll behave well enough to get back in Howland's good graces and add to those stats.