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New Mexico State basketball ended its 2022/23 season early in the wake of significant hazing allegations levied against the program. The decision was unrelated to the ongoing investigation into a fatal shooting that involved basketball player Mike Peake.
The tragic homicide took place in November.
The school later suspended the program indefinitely in February, and shut it down for the year a few days later. Head coach Greg Heiar, who was in his first year, was fired on that same day.
Now, two months later, a lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the 3rd District of New Mexico by the two players at the center of the hazing allegations. William ‘Deuce’ Benjamin Jr., his father, and Shakiru ‘Shak’ Odunewu filed the lawsuit against The Board of Regents of New Mexico State University, Heiar, assistant coach Dominique Taylor, and three former players— Kim Aiken Jr., DeShawndre Washington and Doctor Bradley.
The lawsuit alleges hazing and sexual assault. Criminal charges have not been filed in the case at this time, but could still come. The case has been referred to the New Mexico Attorney General.
The New Mexico State basketball allegations are grotesque.
Benjamin alleges in the lawsuit that he was pulled into a hotel room while on the road. Other players and some young women were in the room.
Washington allegedly told Benjamin to “pull you ass out.” He said no.
At that point, Benjamin claims that Washington levied further threats before forcefully grabbing his scrotum. It was not only painful, but humiliating.
That was once instance.
Odunewu also alleges that there was frequent violent behavior, unwanted touch and violent behavior amongst the three players listed in the lawsuit. He claims that Aiken Jr. and Bradley ripped back the curtain while he was in the shower during the summer of 2022 and forced him to spin around and do squats as they slapped his buttocks.
The lawsuit also says that Bradley filmed the shower incident on his cellphone.
In a separate incident, Odunewu says that Washington, Aiken Jr. and Bradley tacked him to the ground during a bus ride on the way to El Paso in November of 2022. He alleges that they proceeded to hold him face-down and covered his mouth so that he could not seek help.
Odunewu claims that they then pulled his pants and underwear down to his ankles while digitally sodomizing and groping his genitals.
The 28-page lawsuit also turns focus on the staff.
According to the lawsuit, Heiar and Taylor had a complete lack of institutional control. Odunewu claims that the entire coaching staff was on the bus during the November incident. He alleges that one coach turned around and said “stop playing around.”
In addition, the lawsuit says that the incident was reported to Heiar and Taylor with an ask for intervention. Taylor allegedly responded by asking “what do you want me to do?”
Per the lawsuit, New Mexico State University, Heiar and Taylor “had knowledge and notice that Shak Odunewu was a victim of sexual assault and rape perpetrated on him by Aiken, Bradley and Washington.” It claims that they were made aware no later than Nov. 12, 2022.
Three days later, the lawsuit alleges that New Mexico State University had, “actual knowledge of, and was deliberately indifferent to, the inappropriate harassment, attacks, sexual assaults and batteries, that Aiken, Bradley and Washington perpetrated on certain members of the basketball team.”
Although only Benjamin and Odunewu are listed in the lawsuit, it also alleges that there were “at least two other” victims. One is a player, one is a staffer.
Plaintiffs in the case seek “reasonable compensation for their damages.”
The full lawsuit can be found here:
041923 Complaint Benjamin &… by DamienWillis
Benjamin’s future is up in the air.
‘Deuce’ Benjamin, one of the players who filed the lawsuit, was the school’s most highly-touted recruit of this decade, if not of all-time. He was New Mexico’s Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2021 and it was his childhood dream to play for the Aggies.
That dream is no longer. Benjamin entered the transfer portal on Wednesday, the same day that he filed the lawsuit.
He claims that new head coach Jason Hooten suggested that he seek a new opportunity.
Hooten will be tasked with rebuilding his entire roster. Only one player from the 2022/23 season remains on the roster. The rest, including Benjamin, have entered the transfer portal, turned pro, or run out of eligibility.