Mo Buckets visits JHOP


BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Marreese Speights, aka Mo Buckets, scored points with the students of John Hopkins Middle School (JHOP) during lunchtime as he continues his commitment to speak to schools as part of his motivational program. Standing 6 feet, 11 inches, he towered over the young energetic middle schoolers, but he made sure not to speak over their heads.

As a native of St. Pete, when Principal Dr. Dallas Jackson asked him to speak to the students, Speights quickly accepted the chance to give back to his hometown. Jackson brought Speights in for the students so they could see a walking success story and perhaps inspire them to “dream and achieve success toward that dream.”

“He represents a real life story and not a movie with a star that you never get to meet,” said Jackson. “The kids can identify with him because he grew up here and they see him in the grocery store or their neighborhood. He has made strides in life and somebody can learn from that.”

Speights, born August 4, 1987, is a professional basketball player for the Orlando Magic. He played college basketball at University of Florida, where he was a freshman member of the Florida Gators‘ NCAA national championship team in 2007. The Philadelphia 76ers selected him with the 16th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft. He has played with Memphis Grizzlies (2012–13), Cleveland Cavaliers (2013), the Golden State Warriors (2013–16) where he won his first NBA championship and the Los Angeles Clippers (2016–17).

Speights, featuredSpeights grew up in the Childs Park area. He played basketball at Admiral Farragut Academy, where they retired his jersey number after one year. He also played basketball at Hargrave Military Academy and at Gibbs High School.

Considered a four-star recruit by, Speights was listed as the No. 13 power forward and the No. 51 player in the nation in 2006.

His journey wasn’t without challenges and much of it was his own doing. With others charting his projected fame and athletic prowess, it was challenging for Speights to stay focused on developing into what others saw as potential. This journey has framed his message to the youth on decision making.

“You have to stay focused on the thing that you want to become,” said Speights. “There are people out here who really do care about you. They are your parents, teachers, principal, people at the recreation center and me. I care! You have watch out for the people that you hang out with, places that you go and the things that you do. These will determine how things turn out for you.”

Speights’ love for the youth prompted him to start a not-for-profit organization focusing on encouraging adolescence and giving them opportunities to excel.

Along with speaking at schools and youth organizations, the Marreese Speights Foundation, entitled mo4kids, has partnered with High Point Gamer to present the Stix to Glory Scholarship Tournament. The tournament is a way of rewarding kids through console gaming. Selected students will compete at NBA2k17 on the PS4.  The winner receives a $5K scholarship prize.

Mo Buckets found his passion and encouraged JHOP students to work hard and find their path to success. He showed them that success is attainable and never out of reach.

To reach Dexter McCree, email

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