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2023 Best of the South: Saturday Notebook

Mekai Johnson
8, Jul 2023

2023 Best of the South: Saturday Notebook

ATLANTA, GA - The Best of the South continued from the Georgia World Congress Center on Saturday. As usual, the action did not disappoint as we sorted through the end of pool play and into bracket play. 

In this edition of our #BOTS notebook, I touch on Makai Johnson’s gamesmanship, a promising young name to track, a consistent HoopSeen performer, and, of course, some Alabama names to know.

Enjoy!

MEKAI JOHNSON MAKES A STATEMENT

2024 Alexandria (VA) Bishop Ireton guard Makai Johnson (pictured above) raised some eyebrows during the June scholastic periods with his combination of length, defensive versatility, and shooting ability. He shot over 45 percent from behind the arc in two weekends and earned scholarship offers from East Tennessee State and Coastal Carolina.

If the past few days while playing for Team AKT are any indication, he needs to be getting a lot more attention on the recruiting trail. The 6-foot-5 guard showcased his full arsenal during the final game of the day against the Wellington Wolves Select.

Matched up against Wellington’s Elyjah Freeman — one of the best offensive players at BOTS —  Johnson jumped at the opportunity to guard him. Johnson’s length and quickness caused havoc to start the game and AKT never looked back. 

And if his defense wasn’t impressive enough, Johnson made four three-pointers en route to 19 points in the first half to really set the tone for his team. In the second half, the rising senior embraced the role of playmaker and created scoring opportunities for his teammates by getting in the lane and drawing multiple positions.

Johnson is drawing interest from a wide variety of different programs at this point. After watching him the past few days, I’m sold on him — he’s going to win a lot of games at the next level. Coaches, put him on your list to track.

 

HELLO, MY NAME IS…

I stumbled across a SWFL Hoops Black 17U game during the night session of games and came away impressed with a bouncy, lefty guard. Upon further review, I learned it was a 2026 prospect playing up in Dallas Lambert.

Lambert, a rising sophomore, passed every look test playing up in the 17U division. The 6-foot-3 guard has a strong frame to go along with his athleticism and natural instincts, and he isn’t afraid to challenge defenders at the rim, either. 

It’s obviously very early in his career, but there’s a lot to like about Lambert at this point. The lefty did most of his damage attacking the rim off straight-line drives, but his shot doesn’t look bad. He also has a ton of upside as a defender.

I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s one of the top 2026 prospects we have in the building this week. Remember the name going forward.

 

ROCCO CONTINUES TO ROCK

I feel like I’ve beat this drum the entire travel season: I love some Rocco Lamuno. The 6-foot-4 guard has consistently produced from one weekend to the next, competing for triple-doubles each time he steps on the floor. 

Lamuno is the ideal dribble, pass, shoot prospect. The lefty kicked off BOTS with a couple of high-scoring games with 30 and 26 points respectively, and then he switched gears and showed his ability as a passer and distributor. 

I don’t know what level Lamuno will end up playing at, but I do know this: he’s going to be a valuable glue-guy at the next level that does things that translate to wins. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters. I love his winning acumen. 

Let’s play a hypothetical here — I can totally see him ending up at a Division II program, being an all-conference player later in his career and eventually transferring up to the Division I level. He brings that kind of value. 

Also, while we’re on the subject of distributing, how about D13 Elite point guard Xialin Lenoir? The savvy floor general has been another solid player for the team. He racked up 11 assists during one game in the morning session. 

 

LET’S SPRINKLE IN SOME ALABAMA FLAVOR

This section shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. I love to mention quality Alabama prospects and I added several new names to my list today:

Trevone Palmer, 2024, Auburn Raptors: When I first saw Palmer, I instantly thought he was a football player. After watching him for a few minutes, it’s evident the big-bodied wing is a basketball player. The 6-foot-4 wing does a nice job of using his jumbo size to punish smaller defenders, whether it’s posting them up or elevating over the defense for shots in the lane. There’s a lot of physical intangibles to like here. He’s definitely a college prospect to take note on.  

Braden Duckworth, 2024 PF, Iron City Hoops: Duckworth impressed with his soft hands and ability to shoot the ball at 6-foot-6. The Gardendale High School product is a nice combination of size, skill, and touch and he does a lot of things that translate to the next level. I could see him excelling at a NAIA or Division III school that utilizes something to a Princeton style offense. 

Quinton Odom, 2024 PF, Panhandle Prospects: Odom is an intriguing prospect down south at Escambia Academy. The slender, 6-foot-7 forward is mobile and runs like a deer, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that he gets tons of easy baskets in transition. The rising senior blocks shots and plays with a motor, too. There’s a lot of versatility and upside with his game and I think his best basketball is ahead of him. 

Aiden Owens, 2025 WF, Pro One Select Hood 16U: I watched a Chelsea game during the high school season and was really intrigued with Owens, a 6-foot-4 wing. The rising junior has a lot of natural instincts and physical intangibles that are intriguing. The upside is evident and he plays with a high IQ, too. He’s very intriguing and I feel like he’s just scraping the surface.  

Tyler Cone, 2025 G, Pro One Select Mastin 16U: Speaking of players that know how to play, Cone fits that bill. The 6-foot-2 guard has a tremendous feel for the game and plays with a lot of energy. Each time I looked up, he was playing with his foot on the gas and keeping the defense on its heels. Keep an eye on him at Good Hope High School.


Garrett Tucker
State Editor

Garrett Tucker is a senior content producer for HoopSeen. He has been a member of HoopSeen.com since 2014. Specializing in basketball in the South, Garrett has helped grow the HoopSeen Alabama network from the ground up. He also provides stories and information from players all across the country. His GTuckerScouting recruiting service is a notorious product in the Southeast, as he has been in contact with numerous college programs across the country. You can follow Garrett on Twitter at @GTuckerHoops.

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