Last week, Sports Illustrated’s George Dohrmann released a story in the magazine titled, “Not The UCLA Way.” In it, it discusses the downward spiral of the highly touted Bruins basketball team and the reported role that former standout-turned-dismissed-player Reeves Nelson had in it.
Nelson has fired back, hoping to restore his “good name.” Nelson says some of the most damning stories about him in the article are not true and that he was not given an opportunity to give his side of the story to Dorhmann. He tells his side in the following interview.
Reeves Nelson joined ESPN Los Angeles with Mason and Ireland to discuss his initial reaction to the article, a quote that particularly irked him, why he’s not playing for UCLA anymore, his denial of a couple of specific instances, his contact with Dorhmann, how he wasn’t asked to give his side of the story, Dohrmann’s credibility and what he’d like to see happen going forward.
What was your initial reaction when you first read the article?:
“I was very surprised and I felt kind of taken advantage of to be honest. He pretty much did use a quote that I gave at the very beginning of the conversation and then infused it to make his point and make me look like a really bad person. I just felt surprised and kind of taken advantage of.”
Are you talking about the quote where you talked about putting that part of your life behind you and it made it seem like you were admitting to everything he was talking about?:
“Yeah, that’s what he definitely made it seem like. But in the actual conversation, after saying hello to him, that’s when I made that statement. That was right at the beginning of the conversation. I had no idea what he was going to put in the article at that point. I was speaking on the actual factual reasons that I was dismissed from the team.”
In your words, why are you no longer playing for UCLA?:
“Basically, first I had missed a team practice. I didn’t show a lot of respect to the team in program, if you want to put it in a nutshell. Specific instances that happened were that I walked out on a team practice without Coach’s permission, I missed a flight to Maui and then I think the thing that resulted in my final suspension and ultimate dismissal was when I was seen laughing at the end of a loss to Texas. That obviously shows a lack of respect to the team and program as a whole.”
The two most eye-opening stories were those that claim you purposely injured teammate James Keefe during a practice and that you urinated on teammate Tyler Honeycutt’s clothes. Are those true?:
“No, neither of those things happened at all. James Keefe, who had already … had previously injured his shoulder pretty seriously and had been doing rehab and I made no attempt to [reinjure him]. Me and James have already discussed this and he actually reached out to me, personally, saying that he would fight for me because he knows it isn’t true. He said that, when Dohrmann contacted him, he told Dohrmann that he didn’t believe that that was true, nor did he want to believe it was true, so Dohrmann pretty much went against his primary source on that.”
What’s your side of the Honeycutt story?:
“What’s true about that is the fact that he was a suitemate of mine. Me and him lived in rooms five feet apart. He’s my friend. I’ve known him since I was 16 years old. … I was just messing with him and I flipped over his bed, put some baby powder and Jolly Ranchers or something. … At no point did I ever remove clothes from his closet and purposely urinate on them and the bed.”
When you contacted Dorhmann to ask him what was up with his story, how did he respond?:
“Basically, the conversation went like this: I called him and said, ‘I’m returning your call out of courtesy. All I want to say is that I realize I’ve made mistakes. At this point I thought the article was just going to be on UCLA as a whole. So I said I realize the mistakes that I’ve made and all I’m trying to do at this point in my life is trying to improved as a person and a player.’ After that, he kind of sugar-coated it in retrospect. He said … ‘I appreciate you returning my call and being stand-up about this, but just so you know, I’m going to write this stuff.’ That’s pretty much it. He never asked me for a reply or anything like that.”
Did he ask you specifically about any of those incidents that make you look so bad in the article?:
“No, he never asked for my version of any event at all. He never gave me a chance to defend myself or anything like that. He took my statement and he twisted it to make his point.”
On Dohrmann’s credibility:
“I think what it really comes down to, regardless if he’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning author he wrote a children’s book, I think that the facts are that the people, the actual people, he’s saying the incidents happened to have said to me … through all sorts of mediums, that they’re not true. … If the person he’s writing about, or the two people directly involved, both say it’s not true, then how [do those stories get printed]?”
What would you like to see happen with this going forward?:
“For me, all that I really truly care about right now is restoring my good name. Basketball aside, it is obviously my passion and I love it, but more than anything I’m just a human being and this article makes me look like I’m a scumbag, really. I don’t want my mom and my granny and my little sister thinking, ‘We raised an idiot,’ pretty much. That’s all I really want. Whatever they’re going to do, issue a retraction or whatever, I don’t care about money or anything, I just want my good name restored.”
How fair was the article overall to Ben Howland and the basketball program in general?:
“I think that I can’t really comment on that because I wasn’t obviously there for the last three months. I just take responsibility for my part in it, the stuff I know I did. … All I can say about Coach Howland is I have a great deal of respect for the man.”