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Could Reeves Nelson’s suspension bode ill for Ben Howland?


Mike Miller

UCLA junior forward Reeves Nelson has been suspended again by head coach Ben Howland. (This runs contrary to an earlier report from Tracey Pierson of that Nelson was kicked off the team.)

This is the latest chapter in what has been a tumultuous 2011 season so far for Nelson and the Bruins.

Here’s a timeline of the happenings in Westwood:

Nov. 14: Howland announces that Nelson has been suspended, “indefinitely for unspecified behavior issues.” That comes three days after UCLA drops their opener to Loyola Marymount and Josh Smith takes to Twitter to call LMU “bums.” Nelson went for 13 points and 8 rebounds in that game.

Nov. 16: Two days in, the indefinite suspension is lifted, after Howland and Nelson find common ground. Nelson says he will keep his behavior in line, Howland reinstates him. While Nelson is out, UCLA gets dismantled by Middle Tennessee, 86-66.

Nov. 20: After reports surfaced that lateness played a role in Howland handing down the suspension, Nelson is late for the team bus to LAX and misses the plane to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. Because he had to take a later flight, he missed a team banquet. “He understands it doesn’t look good,” Bruins Coach Ben Howland said, at the time.

Nov. 21: Nelson plays 11 minutes and tallies one point in a UCLA win over Division II Chaminade.

Dec. 3: UCLA falls to 2-5 on the season, after a 10-point loss to Texas, 69-59. Nelson plays 12 minutes, going 0/1 from the field and scoring zero points. At this point, the Bruins have one win over a Division I team: Pepperdine. In that win (technically a road game), 17 miles away from UCLA’s campus, 34 students showed up to support the Bruins.

Dec. 6: News breaks that Nelson’s “disappointing behavior” has earned him another suspension.

NBC Sports speculated, two weeks ago, about the lasting effects of the Bruins’ rough start, including where it could place them in the race for highly-coveted recruit Shabazz Muhammad.

Nelson came into the season as the Bruins best returning option, then transformed into the team’s seventh leading scorer.

Fortunately for Howland’s team, the upcoming stretch of games could ease the pain of a 2-5 record.

After a matchup with scrappy Penn at home, UCLA hosts Eastern Washinton, UC Irvine, and UC Davis, three teams with a combined record of 6-16.

But, as it was before, the bigger question is the perception of UCLA as a program, when it comes to blue-chip recruits.

The Bruins hold signatures for the Class of 2012 from St. Anthony (N.J.) product Kyle Anderson, a top five player in the country, and Jordan Adams, a top 50 swingman from Georgia.

Howland has been criticized in the past for his handling of high-level talent at UCLA, including an incident when now-76ers point guard Jrue Holiday informed Howland of his decision to head to the NBA Draft via a UCLA beat writer.

In an environment that is increasingly “what have you done for me lately?” Howland’s three straight Final Fours in the mid-2000s and six NCAA appearances in eight seasons at the helm seem to be a more-than-solid record to live by.

But, consider the program.

Under Steve Lavin, the Bruins made six straight NCAA tournaments, including four Sweet Sixteens and an Elite Eight. After a 10-19 season, Lavin got the boot.

Would a 10-19 season do the same for Howland?

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_