Point guard is a priority position for IU basketball in the recruiting class of 2023 and there is clear mutual interest with Gabe Cupps out of Centerville, Ohio.
Cupps is 6-foot-1 and currently ranked No. 141 by Rivals. He played up a year on the Adidas circuit with fellow IU recruiting target Reed Sheppard for the Ohio based Midwest Basketball Club.
Cupps has taken three unofficial visits to Indiana over the last two months, including one with Sheppard in August, and on Saturday night at Hoosier Hysteria. And he has another visit planned next week.
The Daily Hoosier caught up with Cupps’ father Brook for a lengthy Q&A session.
TDH: What visits have you taken to Indiana, and what is about the program that keeps you coming back?
Brook Cupps: We went over for an unofficial in early August and then another time just to watch a practice. And then we went over for Hoosier Hysteria.
I think Gabe likes the University, likes the coaching staff. He’s trying to get a feel for the players and the culture of Indiana basketball like he’s doing with some of the other schools recruiting him. He is definitely interested in Indiana. He loves the basketball aspect of it for sure.
TDH: As a basketball family, what kinds of things are you looking at when you go on visits and watch practices?
(Note: Brook Cupps is Gabe’s head coach at Centerville High School in Ohio. They won the 2021 Ohio Division 1 state title.)
Brook Cupps: The main thing is just seeing how the guys interact and how the coaches interact, and how the players interact with the coaches. I think you’re trying to figure out that dynamic and how it is and how Gabe feels about it and how he feels he might fit in with that. Trying to get a feel for players who are like minded with the way he views the game and the way he views preparing, growing and developing. It is a hard thing to evaluate and judge. You are obviously not immersed into it, so being able to watch and observe and talk to people is about the best thing you can do.
TDH: Has Gabe gotten to know any of the IU players or perhaps did he know anyone previously?
Brook Cupps: He knows Logan Duncomb a little bit because we always played against Moeller. Gabe played against him his freshman and sophomore year. I know there’s like a mutual respect there.
TDH: How did Gabe’s whole experience playing under the spotlight with Bronny James and the North Coast Blue Chips help prepare him for recruiting and the college game?
Brook Cupps: At the time it was overwhelming at points during that process, but when you are on the other side of it and can look back and see how it has prepared him for things like this and even going from like that to varsity basketball and a state championship game and even on to college, he’s been exposed to such a high level of pressure, atmospheres and craziness, that he does a pretty good job of taking them in stride.
(Note: Cupps played on that Blue Chips team as a 14 year-old in 2019.)
14-year-old Gabe Cupps almost took down LeBron in a 3-pt shootout 😳
— ESPN (@espn) May 27, 2019
TDH: Something else I found interesting from that experience is that Gabe has a crazy amount of followers on social media. And that got me thinking about name, image and likeness. How does that all tie together and how important is NIL to him/you in his recruitment?
Brook Cupps: He has like 300k followers on Instagram, and that’s all really from his time with the Blue Chips and doing stuff with LeBron James, and LeBron has always been a really big fan and supporter of Gabe. But he’s doing a really good job of trying to handle that stuff the right way which is a big part of the maturing process too.
As far as the NIL stuff, we haven’t really talked about it much or explored it much. Gabe wants the decision to be a basketball and relationship decision, and then whatever happens with that other stuff just happens. He’s more of a purist when it comes to basketball, he just wants to play. He could do without the interviews and all the other stuff, he just wants to practice and play, so we’re just trying to keep it focused on that stuff.
TDH: Entering his junior year of high school, what aspects of his game is Gabe focused on right now?
Brook Cupps: I think the best players just make the right plays over and over, and then they have the skill set to allow them to make the right play. If you need to shoot it then you shoot it, if you need to shoot a floater then you shoot a floater, if you need to shoot a pull-up, drive, draw, kick, then you can do those things.
So I think it is just a matter of continuing to develop that decision-making and then adding those things to your game that allow you to be more efficient and carrying that out. So for Gabe right now his focus is a lot on his mid-level finishes, floaters, hooks, crafty finishes around the rim. He’s trying to deepen his range a little bit. He’s got pretty good range now but he’s trying to be more consistent from deeper. And then reading and playing off of ball-screen actions, and making the right decision play after play.
TDH: Gabe and Reed Sheppard have been playing together in the summer. Do they talk about teaming up at the college level?
Brook Cupps: They’ve played together for two summers, and it is kind of uncanny how well they play together and how fluid they are together. They have talked about it. They both agree that they are going to go through the process on their own and then when they get to the end of it see what makes sense for them. I think where one goes is a factor for the other, but I don’t think it is the main factor. If it worked out where they both really liked the school that might tip them over to playing together, but I think they understand that they’ve got to do what’s best for them. They love playing together but I think they’ll go through the process and try to put themselves in the best situation.
(Note: Indiana has also offered a scholarship to Sheppard. Cupps and Sheppard are good friends and they both played up a year for the Midwest Basketball Club)
TDH: What kind of things are you going to be looking for from Indiana when they start playing next month?
Brook Cupps: Obviously with Indiana you haven’t seen them because they haven’t played yet with this staff. The things that Gabe is talking about are pace of play, how well they share the ball, how committed are they defensively — just the trademarks of good basketball and good teams and how well are they committed to doing that night in and night out.
TDH: What have been your and Gabe’s impressions of Mike Woodson and the staff?
Brook Cupps: He’s got a great staff, and his experience kind of speaks for itself. That recruits a lot of people with just his experience in the NBA and knowledge of the game. When you talk with him his love for Indiana basketball is genuine and that comes out in his recruiting.
TDH: Do you have any plans to come back for more visits or to watch games?
Brook Cupps: We are actually coming back for an official visit on Monday and Tuesday next week. I think it will give Gabe a chance to be around the players a little bit more which is one of the things he is looking forward to. We will definitely watch them on television too. It will be hard with me coaching and our schedule but we will definitely try to get back for a game.
(Note: Cupps previously took an official to Michigan and has one this weekend at Ohio State)
TDH: Has Gabe talked about a timeline for narrowing things down or making a decision?
Brook Cupps: He’s just talked about when he’s confident in a school and it’s a good fit for him, and they really want him then he will just commit. He really hasn’t talked about a certain day. I think one of the things Indiana has done a good job of is making him feel like he’s wanted, that he’s a priority for them. They’re obviously recruiting some other really good players in his class at his position, but they’ve done a good job of making Gabe feel like he’s an important piece of what they’re trying to do. So it isn’t a day or a certain time. That could be in a month or it could be in a year.
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