IU basketball class of 2023 commit Gabe Cupps has a connection to LeBron James that started before he entered high school.
It began when he played on the North Coast Blue Chips spring and summer travel team with James’ son Bronny in 2018, and continues to this day.
James was in Ohio over the weekend for a final reunion of the Blue Chips team, which because of James, drew national attention when a highly talented group of middle-school players played across the country, drawing massive crowds along the way.
Cupps drew national fame on the team, and specifically when he challenged James to a 3-point shooting contest in 2019. He’s amassed more than 380 thousand followers on Instagram largely as a result of that and his time with the Blue Chips.
But behind the scenes Cupps and James have formed a bond, and over the weekend James made an offer the IU recruit couldn’t pass up.
A photo surfaced on social media of James and Cupps together on a basketball court, in the middle of a workout in northern Ohio.
“He knows I like to get extra shots in and get extra workouts in, so when he said he was going to workout he asked me if I wanted to join, that was super nice of him,” Cupps told The Daily Hoosier. “It’s a really cool experience for me and I’m super grateful that he’s that selfless to do that.”
Cupps says he has grown accustomed to being around James over the last few years, but there is still a surreal aspect to spending time with the most famous basketball player in the world.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) May 26, 2019
“I don’t really stargaze anymore,” Cupps said. “He’s become more like a normal person to me, but obviously seeing him workout and go through his drills and me be a part of it, sometimes I’ll take a step back, and it’s the same thing as if my dad was working out with Michael Jordan.”
Cupps is a basketball junkie, so when he got another opportunity to share the floor with James, he was taking notes.
“The main thing that I got is that guys who are in the league, and he’s at the top of the NBA, but the drills he was doing were simple, just the mechanics of the game,” Cupps said. “His detail, and paying attention to that stuff showed me that everybody can take videos of them doing crazy stuff, but at the end of the day it’s the basics that win the game.”
Speaking of the NBA, Last week Cupps was Orlando, Fla. for the NBPA top-100 camp, playing with the best college players in the country in front of NBA scouts and college coaches.
While there, he continued to develop another relationship that might have more direct benefits to Indiana.
Since committing to IU last fall, Cupps has been busy recruiting. That’s how his relationship started with Xavier Booker, an Indianapolis based 5-star in the class of 2023.
But now Cupps calls Booker one of his best friends.
“The (Indiana) coaches obviously love Xavier a lot, and I started talking to him by trying to get him to play for Indiana eventually, but I’ve developed a really good friendship with him,” Cupps said. “Wherever he goes I’m super happy for him. I love him, he’s super nice and super funny and I just love being around him.”
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