- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Former UCLA forward Reeves Nelson, portrayed in the week's Sports Illustrated as one of the main catalysts in UCLA's dysfunctional basketball program, refuted the incidents in the article during a radio interview with Mason and Ireland Friday on ESPN 710.
Nelson said incidents such as his intentionally injuring teammates and urinating on a teammate's clothes described in the article "Not the UCLA Way" were not true and that a quote attributed to him was taken out of context.
"This article makes me look like I'm a scumbag really and I'm not like that," Nelson said. "I just want my good name restored."
The Sports Illustrated story, reported and written by Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann, detailed many incidents of dysfunction in the UCLA program. A large portion of the article is spent on the antics of Nelson, who was dismissed from the team early this season.
Stories that Nelson intentionally injured James Keefe, got into a fight at practice with Mike Moser and gave Drew Gordon a black eye at an off-campus fight are prominent. The story also says Nelson punted basketball into the stands and told student managers to "fetch."
The most memorable anecdote alleged Nelson to have urinated on the clothes of Tyler Honeycutt because Honeycutt supposedly thwarted Nelson's plan to rent a party bus on New Year's Eve.
"I claim and know that they didn't happen," Nelson said of the incidents contained in the story.
Nelson also claimed that Dohrmann never gave him a chance to respond to or give his version of the events depicted in the story.
"He never asked me for my version of any event at all," Nelson said. "He never gave me a chance to defend myself or anything like that. He just took my statement and, like I said, he twisted it to make his point."
Sports Illustrated's parent company Time, Inc., released a statement Thursday stating that it stands behind Dohrmann's reporting.
"Time Inc. and Sports Illustrated unequivocally stand behind George Dohrmann's story, Not the UCLA Way," the statement says. "Dohrmann has multiple sources on the facts uncovered during his reporting. This includes a detailed conversation with Mr. Nelson in which he was given an opportunity to respond to the facts and, to his credit, he did."
Nelson, however, says he has his own trail of evidence in the form of text messages and phone calls from Keefe and Honeycutt, among others, stating that the incidents were falsely reported.
"Regardless if a Pulitzer Prize winning author wrote it, if the person he's writing about or the two people directly involved both say it's not true, then how does that happen," Nelson said.
In the Sports Illustrated report, Dohrmann reports that "Nelson confirmed all these incidents to SI and expressed his regret, saying, 'On all that stuff, I have no trouble admitting that I lost control of my emotions sometimes. I take responsibility for my actions. I'm really just trying to learn from the mistakes I made on all levels.
Nelson, however, contends that he gave that quote before being made aware of the specific incidents to be contained in Sports Illustrated report.
"I felt taken advantage of, to be honest, because he kind of -- not even kind of he pretty much did -- use a quote that I gave at the very beginning of our conversation and then infused it to make his point and make me look like a really bad person," Nelson said.
"In the actual conversation I after saying hello to him -- that's when I made that statement. That was right at the beginning of the conversation and I was not asked -- I had no idea what he was going to put in the article at that point. I was speaking on the actual factual reasons why I was dismissed from the team."
Nelson said the reason he was kicked off the team at UCLA was because of a series of incidents that demonstrated insubordination and a lack of respect. He walked out of a team practice, missed a flight to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational and joked at the end of the bench during a loss to Texas.
"I didn't show a lot of respect to the team and program if you want to put it in a nutshell," Nelson said.
Peter Yoon writes about UCLA athletics for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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