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Former NMSU basketball players speak out for the first time since making hazing allegations

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- For the first time two former NMSU basketball players are speaking out about the hazing allegations they made in a lawsuit two weeks ago.

Shakiru Odunewu, William "Deuce" Benjamin and Deuce's Dad William Benjamin are suing the university, two former coaches, and three former teammates, Deshawndre Washington, Doctor Bradley and Kim Aiken Jr.

"My dream turned into a nightmare real quick and I never expected this to happen my freshman year," Deuce said.

The Las Cruces high grad grew up wanting to follow in his Dad's footsteps and be and Aggie. Wednesday he shared how being an Aggie has completely changed his life.

"At first it hurts and then it changes you, there's a part of me that hasn't been the same and I want people to know that," an emotional Deuce said. "I'm proud of myself that I survived those days when I felt I couldn't."

Attorney's told ABC-7 Wednesday that the coaches and University failed the players by reportedly not taking action to stop the allegations that both Deuce and Shak were hazed and sexually assaulted by the three teammates. They accuse the university of negligence.

"As a father I feel like I failed my son for putting him in this situation," William said. "It is beyond my comprehension that this kind of behavior not only existed but was allowed and persisted with cover." 

On February 10th, months after Shak reportedly first told coaches he was being sexually assaulted, Deuce and William took their allegations to NMSU Police. Days later the program was shutdown for the season and head coach Greg Heiar fired.

"Coming into our freshman year our concerns should be along the lines of how are we going to play, how are we going to stay on the court, how are we going to be dominant, not are we going to be safe," Shak said.

Shak told ABC-7 Wednesday he kept quiet for so long because he was so scared of damaging the future of the players involved but decided he needed to stand with Deuce.

"It just got to a point where I just couldn't bare it anymore," Shak said. "It's just sad that my college experience had to go like this."

"No one has a crystal ball and no one bats 1000 but we still hold people accountable for what they do and do not do," William said.

Attorney Joleen Youngers said Wednesday they are preparing to take the civil lawsuit to trial but they know the majority of cases settle and that is something they are open to.

Right now no criminal charges have been pressed but the New Mexico Attorney Generals office is investigating and Youngers said Wednesday she feels a sense of urgency from the office to get to the bottom of this.

Meanwhile, ABC-7 learned Wednesday that as a response to the New Mexico Governor's Office request to further investigate the hazing allegations, the school has hired outside law firm Lightfoot, Franklin, and White. They were set to arrive into Las Cruces Wednesday and begin interviewing student athletes Thursday. 

On Wednesday NMSU also released the findings of the Greenberg Traurig investigation into how NMSU handled the hazing allegations.

In the news conference Athletic Director Mario Moccia's 5-year contract extension was brought up.

Moccia's contract was signed on April 7, 2023, the same day former NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu announced he was stepping down as NMSU Chancellor, three months before his contract was set to expire.

One of Shak's attorneys, Ramez Shamieh said he was 'shocked' to find out Moccia was given a contract extension.

Another of Shak's attorneys, Will Marsaw said they are currently also investigating Moccia to determine his level of knowledge and his level of action or inaction.

This comes just one day after the New Mexico Faculty Senate in a letter expressed 'deep concern' over the contract extension. The Faculty Senate is set to decide tomorrow if they will send it to the board of regents and interim chancellor.

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Rachel Phillips


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