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Former NMSU basketball players speak after filing lawsuit

 The two former NMSU players state in the lawsuit that assaults happened on multiple occasions and the coaching staff did little to stop it.
Andrés Leighton
AP Photo
The two former NMSU players state in the lawsuit that assaults happened on multiple occasions and the coaching staff did little to stop it.

For Deuce Benjamin and Shakiru Odunewu, the dream of playing college basketball at New Mexico State University quickly became a nightmare for the two former players, as they said they were sexually assaulted on multiple occasions during their time inside the basketball program.

The pair held a press conference on Wednesday alongside family and lawyers who are representing the players in a lawsuit they filed against NMSU, former head coach Greg Heiar and three players for their roles in these assaults.

The university’s basketball season was suspended back in February due to reports of hazing incidents that had occurred within the basketball program.

The lawsuit states that Benjamin filed a complaint to university police on February 10th.

It also detailed the assaults the two endured, which included unwanted touching, verbal and physical insults and degradation and emotional abuse.

It was also stated that the coaching staff, including Heiar were told multiple times about the abuses, but did little to nothing to intervene and stop them from happening.

An emotional Benjamin said the events that transpired during his time at NMSU still hurt him to this day, but that he is focused on the future and trying to move past this traumatic experience.

“Being able to go through this pain isn’t easy as you can see. But all you can do is weather the storm, all you can do is weather the storm and stay positive through this entire process. I’m proud of myself that I survived those days when I thought I couldn’t. Pain makes you stronger and I’m still fixing myself everyday regardless of if the plan changes, I stay loyal to my purpose and my purpose to play at a division one school and represent my city and the state of New Mexico.”

In a statement from New Mexico State Spokesman Justin Bannister, he said the school “continues to regard this matter as extremely important.”

Both Benjamin and Odunewu said basketball is in the future plans, but are unsure where they will play at this time.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has also come out and said she will pursue anti-hazing legislation during next year’s legislative session.  

Gino Gutierrez was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A lifelong resident of New Mexico, he found interest in broadcasting after falling in love with sports. He attended the University of New Mexico, where he majored in multimedia journalism. While at UNM, he worked the New Mexico Daily Lobo, serving as both sports and managing editor. In addition to working at KSFR, Gino is a freelance photojournalist and can also be heard providing play-by-play commentary for the NA3HL New Mexico Ice Wolves.