LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) - In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, former New Mexico State basketball players William Benjamin and Shakiru Odunewu allege that negligence from the previous coaching staff and school administration led to a culture of abuse within the program - that ultimately caused the suspension of the program.
According to the lawsuit Odunewu says he was victimized by three teammates Deshawndre Washington, Doctor Bradley and Kim Aiken Jr. starting in the summer of 2022 and continued for more than six months.
In the complaint Odunewu alleges that in one occasion that group ripped the shower curtain when he was in the shower and forced him to do squats as they slapped his buttocks while Bradley filmed it.
Odunewu says the worst episode took place in Nov. 12 when the team made the trip to El Paso. He alleges that he was tackled to the floor in the back of the bus and was slapped on his buttocks and inappropriately touched on the scrotum, the incident allegedly took place with other teammates and coaching staff on board.
In the lawsuit, Odunewu says he reported the hazing to three of the coaches: Terrelle Woody, former head coach Greg Heier and associate coach Dominique Taylor. He says woody confronted Heiar to do something about it, while Taylor allegedly told Odunewu "What do you want me to do?" when he pleaded him to intervene.
William "Deuce" Benjamin is the second player who alleges he was victimized by the same three players.
Benjamin alleges that he was also held down and slapped with his bare buttocks exposed in the locker room.
In the lawsuit Benjamin says the most embarrassing episode took place while the team was on the road, in which Benjamin was allegedly pulled into a hotel room where all three players and a group of women, where he was once again pinned down and assaulted in front of the women.
After his father noticed a change in his behavior Deuce told him what was happening inside the program. His father tried to reach coach Heiar and Athletic Director Mario Moccia and alleges his calls were not returned.
On Feb. 10, Benjamin filed a report with NMSU police, who in turn issued a report listing possible criminal charges of false imprisonment, criminal sexual assault and harassment.
Later that day, Chancellor Dan Arvizu suspended the program indefinitely and two days later announced the program was suspending operations for the rest of the season. Coach Greg Heiar was fired on Feb. 14
The lawsuit alleges that Odunewu and Benjamin were not the only victims, saying at least one more player and a member of the staff were subjected to similar treatment. The lawsuit says at least one report was made to NMSU about the victimization of one player when the team played a tournament in Las Vegas after Thanksgiving.
One of the three players accused Kim Aiken Jr. was not allowed to play during the 2022-23 season as Heiar and Taylor were in notice that he had prior problems with inappropriate behavior toward other students.
The lawsuit says that NMSU labeling the actions of the three accused players as hazing "mischaracterizes the seriousness of the harmful conduct and attempts to minimize it while implying a justification as a rite of passage that will ultimately allow membership in and elite group, and further, implies the harm may be the price of admission."