Reporting from Lahaina, Hawaii — Less than a week after he was suspended in part for being late to a team meeting, UCLA’s Reeves Nelson missed the team bus to Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday for the Bruins’ flight to Hawaii.
The junior forward took a later flight and missed a players’ banquet ahead of UCLA’s opener against Chaminade on Monday in the Maui Invitational.
“He understands it doesn’t look good,” Bruins Coach Ben Howland said Sunday.
Howland disclosed for the first time that Nelson’s indefinite suspension, which lasted all of two days, was triggered in part by Nelson’s being late to a team meeting Nov. 12, the day after the Bruins lost to Loyola Marymount in their opener.
“To be late to that meeting after we just got beat was really, really inappropriate,” Howland said.
UCLA kept Nelson off limits from the media Sunday.
Sophomore forward Travis Wear said he had noticed a difference in Nelson since he rejoined the team after sitting out the Bruins’ 20-point loss to Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday.
“I think he’s making an effort now to be the person that coach wants him to be,” Wear said.
Asked whether he was confident the erratic Nelson could display the kind of character expected of him the rest of the season, Howland said, “He needs to be the guy he needs to be for the team. That’s part of the requirement coming back.”
Nelson won’t be the only post player returning against the Silverswords; sophomore forward Anthony Stover is expected to make his season debut after being sidelined since late October by a shoulder injury.
“What he gives us is an energy and a guy who can play some defense in the interior and block some shots,” Howland said.
Less certain is the status of sophomore forward David Wear, who suffered a concussion in practice last week. Howland said Wear participated in shooting drills Sunday and would play Monday or Tuesday, when the Bruins will play Kansas or Georgetown.
Schematic changes could be afoot as winless UCLA attempts to avoid its first 0-3 start since dropping its first eight games in the 1940-41 season. Howland said his team would use a 2-3 zone defense at some point during the tournament, which features three games in three days.
“We just want to win,” Travis Wear said. “We realize that we’re in the hole a little bit and we have to start winning.”