Because of his connections to Bronny and LeBron James, Gabe Cupps may be coming to Bloomington as the most famous recruit of all time. He has hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers, a page that’s mostly turned into yet another recruiting tool for Indiana since he committed.
The Centerville, Ohio native is a bit different from other point guards that Mike Woodson has recruited. He doesn’t have the size of Jalen Hood-Schifino or the explosiveness of Xavier Johnson. He also wasn’t as sought after out of high school, coming in at 131st in his class.
Raised by a basketball coach, what Cupps lacks in size and speed, he makes up for in IQ and overall play. He’s a point guard’s point guard, capable of running the offense as a scorer or passer - whatever his team needs.
As a junior in 2022, he won Ohio’s Mr. Basketball award, leading his team to a second place finish in the state tournament. He took another step forward as a senior, raising his scoring average to 15.4 points per game after posting an impressive 14.2 the year before.
With no clear alternative behind Xavier Johnson, look for Cupps to log significant minutes this year as back up point guard. Here’s what to expect when he hits the floor:
On the court
Mike Woodson, to this point, has not allowed a freshman like Cupps to play a lot. Elite recruits like JHS and Malik Reneau earned their minutes, but four stars or lower coming to Bloomington generally don’t see the floor a lot as freshmen with this staff.
Cupps is a different case. Given his confidence and basketball IQ, he may have been in line for significant minutes this year even if Indiana had added another guard in the portal.
He’ll have growing pains, as any freshman would, but part of the appeal of a guy like Cupps is that he just doesn’t make very many mistakes. Throughout his high school career, he’s averaged more steals than turnovers while also making up for his infrequent mistakes with insane passing numbers.
Cupps will need to find a role with the second unit, which is a bit hard to project now with Indiana’s options at wing and shooting guard. Looking at his high school stats though, he appears to be a player who can do whatever Mike Woodson asks of him this year.
Cupps did it all as a senior for Centerville, which led to a slight uptick in his turnover rate. Despite the slight increase in turnovers (1.9, up from 1.1) and decrease in assists (6.2, down from 6.8), Cupps still managed to have an assist to turnover ratio better than 3:1.
Over the last two seasons, Cupps has also managed to become a deep threat at the point guard position. 3-pointers accounted for roughly a third of his field goal attempts over his junior and senior seasons, during which he shot 44.3% and 39.5% from deep, respectively.
His shooting ability and willingness to pull up from deep should help Cupps adjust to life in the Big Ten, where he’ll have a harder time getting to the rim as a freshman. His assist numbers are also encouraging, giving him the chance to impact the game even when his shots aren’t falling.
Like C.J. Gunn and Kaleb Banks last year, expect Cupps to bring high energy on the defensive end from the bench this season. Even as one of the primary weapons on offense, Cupps averaged more than 1.5 steals per game in each of his final three seasons in high school.
He plays defense like he plays offense - intelligently and in such a way that maximizes his talent and hides his weaknesses. For somebody who may not be as athletically gifted as some of the other point guards in the conference, he’s rarely out of position on defense.
His positioning translates to good defensive rebounding numbers as well. He tallied 3.5 defensive boards per game as a senior, which could be a big boost for an Indiana team that has, at points, struggled with decision making and passing in transition.
Overall, Cupps projects very well as an eventual starter in his career with the tools to be one of the premiere guards in the conference by his senior season. His freshman year won’t be perfect, but fans will get a glimpse into the future with Cupps in a back up role this season.