Keeping an eye on Nelson’s, Lane’s injuries

Reeves Nelson had laser surgery on his left eye Monday after tearing his retina Feb. 18 in Pullman, Wash.

Reeves Nelson had laser surgery on his left eye Monday after tearing his retina Feb. 18 in Pullman, Wash. Michael Chen

The hits to the UCLA men’s basketball team’s frontcourt keep coming.

Less than a week after senior forward James Keefe found out he would miss the rest of the season with an injured left shoulder, freshman forward Brendan Lane sprained his ankle on the last play of Tuesday’s practice. Lane is in a boot and will not practice today and will be a game-time decision Thursday night against Oregon State.

Lane saw increased playing time this weekend, playing 14 minutes against Washington State and 18 minutes against Washington. In the Bruins’ humiliating loss to Washington on Saturday, Lane scored a career-high 11 points and was one of the few who drew praise from Howland.

But the injuries to UCLA’s frontcourt don’t end there. Freshman forward Reeves Nelson underwent laser retinopexy on his left eye to repair a slight tear in his retina on Monday.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Steven Schwartz at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute.

UCLA coach Ben Howland said that the news that there was something wrong with Nelson’s left eye came as a shock.

“There were no symptoms,” Howland said. “Reeves had no idea there was anything wrong with his left eye.”

Nelson has dealt with significant problems with his right eye throughout the season. On Dec. 6 against Kansas, Nelson suffered a corneal abrasion, yet returned to play in the game wearing protective goggles.

In Thursday’s win over Washington State, Nelson landed on his face after a dunk, suffering a two-inch cut above his right eye that required 15 stitches. While Nelson was medically cleared to return to the game in the second half, he remained on the bench.

Howland said that Nelson visited Dr. Schwartz as a follow-up to the injury he sustained against Kansas, and that the checkup revealed some blood behind Nelson’s left eye, suggesting that the tear had happened recently. Howland added that the injury is believed to be caused by the violent nature of the injury against Washington State.

“The retinal tear was very far away from his central and meaningful peripheral vision and should not affect his ability to see the court,” said Dr. Schwartz in a statement released by the UCLA athletic department. “He is an extremely tough kid and tolerated the procedure extremely well without anaesthesia.”

Nelson missed practice on Monday and Tuesday, and will be reevaluated today to determine his status for Thursday’s game against Oregon State and for the remainder of the season. When Nelson does return, Howland said that he most likely will wear goggles. Los Angeles Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti will supply goggles, the same ones worn by former Lakers great James Worthy.

Should Nelson miss time, Howland said that playing time in the frontcourt will be spread between senior forward Nikola Dragovic and sophomore center J’mison Morgan, with freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt moving from the three-position to the four-position at times.

In the Bruins’ dominant win over Washington State, Morgan totaled two points, three rebounds, three assists and three blocks in a career-high 21 minutes. Howland said that Morgan gives the Bruins size and length, and showed that he is a decent passer over the weekend.

“Definitely he has a presence down there,” senior guard Michael Roll said.

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