Freshman Focus: Gabe Cupps

  • 07/17/2023 8:38 am in

The second recruit to join Indiana’s 2023 class in November of 2021, Gabe Cupps is a proven winner.

From his time playing with the Blue Chips and Bronny James as a kid to his four years at Centerville High School in Ohio, Cupps never focused on personal accolades. He’s always focused on winning games. And that’s what he’s done.

At Centerville, Cupps led the program to 45 consecutive victories, a streak that began in his sophomore year – and included a state championship – and ended with a loss in the state title game as a junior.

As a senior, Cupps was right back in the hunt for a state championship in Ohio, leading Centerville to an appearance in the state semifinals.

Over four seasons at Centerville playing for his father, Brook, Cupps led the program to a 95-20 record. Over Gabe’s final three high school seasons, Centerville went 80-8.

With the victories, the accolades and recruiting interest arrived for Cupps. As a junior, he was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball after posting averages of 14.2 points, 6.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game.

His numbers were even well-rounded as a senior. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound guard averaged 15.4 points, 6.2 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game.

While Ohio State signee Devin Royal won Mr. Basketball in Ohio this past season, Cupps was named Co-Mr. OHSBCA (with Royal) by the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association.

His work ethic, fundamentals and on-floor leadership made Cupps an attractive recruit to programs looking for help at the point guard position.

As Indiana looked to bolster its guard depth for the future following a coaching change from Archie Miller to Mike Woodson, the pursuit of Cupps became a priority in the summer of 2021. Cupps, not one to stand out with a viral mixtape or with his measurables, didn’t earn his first scholarship offer until the June of 2021.

By the fall of 2021 – after a big summer on the adidas circuit – Cupps had amassed an impressive list of scholarship offers from around the country. His suitors included Indiana, Stanford, Michigan, Ohio State, and several others.

The Hoosiers won out for Cupps, landing his commitment in November 2021.

“I was kind of leaning towards Indiana for a while,” Cupps said. “Every time I kind of went back (to campus), it kind of made the feeling a little bit stronger that it was the place for me. After that game on Friday (against Northern Illinois), I was dead set that I was meant to be there.

“I think the thing that stood out was just the interaction between the coaches and the players and all of the stuff behind the scenes that goes into making them a successful team right now. Really, it was just confirmation of seeing that in a real game. I had seen some practice and seen how coach (Mike) Woodson had handled it in practice, but just kind of wanted that confirmation of the real thing.”

Now in Bloomington and entering week seven of IU’s eight-week summer program, Cupps is preparing for a freshman season as a likely backup to senior point guard Xavier Johnson.

Johnson, to his credit, has already embraced the idea of acting as a mentor to Cupps and fellow freshman guard Jakai Newton.

“I’m accepting it (being big bro) and getting them through the freshman year of college,” Johnson said in late May. “Because I know how hard it is being a freshman coming in.”

The adjustment to college seems to be going well for Cupps.

Early in the summer, he earned praise from IU’s director of athletic performance, Clif Marshall, for his work on the bench press. Cupps did 17 reps on the 185-pound bench press. This may have been a surprise to most, but it wasn’t to Cupps, who made 5:30 a.m. workouts a staple as a high schooler.

In a media availability last Thursday, upperclassman Trey Galloway credited Cupps (and Newton) for their work since arriving on campus.

“They both knew it wasn’t gonna be easy,” Galloway said. “And both guys have really faced the task and attacked it, and done really well this summer. Both of them are strong, physical guards that can guard at the Big Ten level already.”

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