RECRUITING: Interview with UF Commit Marreese

June 28th will mark the start of the NBA Draft as Gators David Lee, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh have tossed their names into the gigantic hat that is know as being "eligible." While 2 out of 3 have the possibility of returning, Coach Billy Donovan has wasted no time in reloading the basketball team for the coming years.

Center Marreese Speights of Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Fla., was the Gators first commitment towards the 2006 class. Speights, who also is a member of the Tallahassee Wildcats, was participating in the Travel Basketball Championship in Gainesville this weekend when Donovan used the home court advantage to seal the deal on the big man.

"UF was my first choice and I'm excited about my commitment to UF," Speights said. "It's a real good school with a real good environment and they get me excited about coming to Florida."

Speights checks in as a 6-10, 245-lb junior who is looking to improve his game in every facet, but his focal point right now is on the offensive side of the ball.

"This year I really improved on my shooting, and I would say that strong point is my shot on offense and it's something that I work on every day," Speights said. "My main priority is to keep on improving on offense so that I have an excellent range by the time I step foot at Florida."

Speights is improving on area of clear need in his game as he has only played basketball for a couple years. He also played quarterback for the football team and pitcher on the baseball team.

Speights will be competing next year at Hargrave Military Academy. Speights who no longer has eligibility in Florida (used up his 4 consecutive years) will be attending the Virginia school as a senior.

"This is a great fit for Marreese. He can continue to get his academics in order and also keep taking his game to the next level," commented head coach Michael Wells.

When he does step foot in Gainesville, it will be solely to work on his academics and contribute to the men's basketball team.

"My first impression of the team was built around Coach Donovan because he really filled me in about the team and gave me good advice in the recruiting process," he said. "Overall, they seemed like a bunch of nice guys."

Despite seeming like a lot of raw potential, Speights has evolved into a highly sought after prospect that Coach Donovan was able to net and just the right time. Speights is looking to play right away and with another year of evolving his game, could be primed to make an immediate impact in a two years.

"I really don't want to get red shirted, and I'd like to play early as opposed to being eased in," he said. "I feel like I can help the team right away and I know they lost one big man in David Lee."

With the physical frame to compete down low, Speights is more focused right now on improving his jump shot as opposed to working on his presence in the paint. As more evidence to this, when asked which NBA player his game compares favorably to, there was no hesitation in naming one of the best Gator big men in stroking the jump shot.

"Matt Bonner. He's a former Gator who was a big man with one heck of a shot from the perimeter so I think my game is modeled most after him," Speights said. will continue to keep track of Speights throughout his senior year at Hargrave, but Speights had a clear message for all of Gator nation of what to expect from him when he steps foot in the O' Connell Center.

"I've been working out a lot since my season ended, and I'm going to continue improving on my agility and speed through workouts," he said. "Like I said earlier, I really want to work on having one of the best shooting percentages out there. I'm dedicated to getting better and improving myself in every aspect and Gators [fans] should know they are going to be watching a real hard worker."

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