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Plaintiffs in hazing, sexual assault lawsuit speak out

The plaintiffs in the recent hazing lawsuit involving the New Mexico State basketball program — former NMSU players Deuce Benjamin and Shakiru Odenwu, Benjamin’s father, William Benjamin Sr., and their attorneys — addressed the public yesterday morning about the horrors they allegedly endured during and after their time with the program. 

Deuce Benjamin, right, listens to his father, William Benjamin, speak about the lawsuit he, his son and another player are filing against NMSU during a news conference held by the two former NMSU players and their lawyers on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, at New Mexico State University. The lawsuit alleges that the freshman players were sexually assaulted by older players and the school failed to intervene despite being aware of the assaults. (Photo by Meg Potter/Las Cruces Sun-News)

“I haven’t been able to move on from this,” Deuce Benjamin said as he approached the podium wiping away tears and being consoled by his father. “My life hasn’t been the same because of this and I want people to know that I have changed.” 

Benjamin, a highly touted prospect out of Las Cruces High School, was a major story at the beginning of the season. His father is an NM State Athletics Hall of Famer and made a trip to the Sweet 16 with the Aggies during the 1991-92 season. The younger Benjamin was on pace to be the next “hometown hero” for the program, following in the footsteps of Johnny McCants.

However, that dream soon turned into a nightmare when Benjamin and Odenwu were allegedly the victims of multiple accounts of hazing, harassment and sexual assault at the hands of three former NMSU players — Kim Aiken Jr., Doctor Bradley and Deshawndre Washington.

During yesterday’s press conference, held just east of the Pan American Center at the site of the NMSU gateway monument, William Benjamin Sr. spoke about how this situation has affected him and his son. “As a parent, I have been made to feel I was crazy for asking questions and having expectations of those questions being answered. My child has been failed, my family has been failed, and as a father, I feel like I failed my son,” Benjamin Sr. said, pausing at one point to hold back tears. 

Shakiru Odenwu spent the last two seasons with the program, last year as a redshirt freshman under former coach, Chris Jans, and this year finally seeing the floor under Greg Heiar. Odenwu noted that he could not write a statement about this particular situation and felt that speaking from the heart would prove more effective.

“Coming into our freshman year, our concern should be along the lines of ‘are we going to play, are we going to stay on the court’ and not ‘are we going to be safe?’ And last year, I was a redshirt freshman with coach Jans and the coaching was different. Nothing like this would ever happen. It was discipline. There was an authority figure,” Odenwu stated.

This lawsuit was filed against the NMSU Board of Regents, Aiken Jr., Bradley, Washington, and former associate head coach Dominique Taylor.

While the NMSU basketball program is entering a full reset starting with the hiring of new head coach Jason Hooten in late March, the plaintiffs and their attorneys feel that this situation should not be left in the dust.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to press the reset button and lump in the victims with everybody else,” William Benjamin Sr. said in his closing remarks.

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