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New Mexico State star recruit joins mass exodus from program

Syndication: Las Cruces Sun-News

Las Cruces’ Deuce Benjamin drives toward the basket during the 5A state basketball finals on Saturday, May 8, 2021, at The Pit in Albuquerque. Crucescleveland4

Matt Hollinshead/The Daily Times via Imagn Content Services, LLC

New Mexico State’s most highly touted recruit this decade has entered the transfer portal as part of a mass exodus from a program that was shut down in midseason in the wake of hazing allegations and a fatal shooting involving a team member.

Deuce Benjamin, who went to nearby Las Cruces High and was New Mexico’s Gatorade high school player of the year in 2021, said it had always been his childhood dream to play for the Aggies.

“Due to the actions of others (which I will not go into here), that dream turned into a nightmare,” he tweeted. “Adding insult to injury, Coach Hooten recently informed me that it would be in my best interest to continue my education and basketball career elsewhere.”

The new coach, Jason Hooten, will take over a program decimated by transfers. All but one player from the 2022-23 roster has either run out of eligibility, turned pro or entered the portal.

Last month, Mike Peake, the player seen in a video shooting a student from University of New Mexico, also entered the portal. Peake has not been charged with a crime for the shooting in Albuquerque that killed University of New Mexico student Brandon Travis on Nov. 19, 2022.

The program was shut down three months later, after a player went to campus police and said teammates had ganged up on him and assaulted him on more than one occasion.

Benjamin announced his departure less than two weeks after the school’s chancellor, Dan Arvizu, said he would be leaving before his previously scheduled June 30 departure date.

In a meeting last year, the school’s board of regents decided not to renew Arvizu’s contract. The chancellor came under scrutiny both for the troubles inside the basketball program and after police body cam video came out from a dispute last year at his home. Arvizu’s wife, Sheryl, accused him of having an affair with an NMSU staff member. Arvizu denied the affair.