Former NMSU basketball players speak after filing lawsuit
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.