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Gabe Cupps Q&A

Centerville High School (OH) and Midwest Basketball Club (OH) star Gabe Cupps is a prospect Pro Insight has tracked for quite some time, as we’ve watched him become college-ready over the years. We recently caught him at the Beacon Orthopaedics Flyin’ to the Hoop Invitational, where he led his team to a victory over Southern California Academy. The future Indiana Hoosier won Ohio Mr. Basketball last season as a junior and led his team to the state championship game, while averaging 14.3 PPG, 6.8 APG, 2.5 RPG, and 2 SPG. 

Recently, Cupps spent time with Pro Insight’s David Hendren to discuss his unique basketball journey, his short and long term goals, receiving advice from LeBron, and much more. 

For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A Series, we present Gabe Cupps, from Centerville, Ohio:

Pro Insight: Give us some background — in your own words, catch everyone up — how did you get to where you are today?

Gabe Cupps: My dad has always been a basketball coach so I’ve always grown up around the game. Basketball was the only thing I knew to this point of my life. As I started to get older, I was working out and he would take me in the basement to work on ball-handling drills and stuff like that. It became a passion for me and I’ve continued with it and worked hard and it has led me to this point now. 

PI: How old were you when you started playing basketball and when did you start taking it seriously?

GC: I was probably 4 or 5 years old but when I started taking it seriously would be the 4th grade, which was around the time I started playing with the Blue Chips. That made me want to work even harder to be able to compete at that level. 

PI: When did you realize you could possibly get to that next level and get a college scholarship?

GC: It was always a dream of mine, but it never became real until I was actually getting scholarship offers after my sophomore year, which was when I got my first offer. Before that, my mindset was just to work as hard as I can and to see what happens. 

PI: Talk about your experience with the Midwest Basketball Club. 

GC: Obviously, my dad was the coach of that team too. We played the right way, which took a lot of college coaches and AAU programs by surprise the way we played and that’s why we were able to be successful, even if the other teams had more athletic guys. I think we moved the ball, which is rare in AAU, which is definitely the way I like to play. I got to play with friends and teammates that I really enjoyed. 

PI: What was it like playing with Reed Sheppard and how would you say you guys complement each other on the floor? 

GC: Ever since I started playing with Reed, he’s been one of my favorite guys to play with. He and I being different guards — him being more of a scoring guard and myself being more of a creator — really complemented each other and it made the game a lot easier to play together. He’s one of my closest friends off the floor, too, so it was always fun to be around him and share those memories together. 

PI: What’s your favorite all-time memory on the basketball court?

GC: My favorite on-court memory was winning the state championship and hugging my dad my sophomore year.

PI: How has it been playing for your dad in both high school and in AAU?

GC: Early on in my freshman year, we butted heads a little bit because we are both super competitive and wanted to win, so we both were going to speak our mind about what was right. We have gotten a lot better as time has gone on, whether it was through the AAU or high school season, at learning where each of us was coming from and combining our ideas. We wanted to listen to each other and not get defensive with one another. 

PI: What would you say has been the best part?

GC: The best part has been spending time with him and creating those memories. A lot of kids don’t have the relationship that I have with my dad, so I’m grateful to be around him. We share the same love for the game and that is something really important to both of us. 

PI: How about the worst?

GC: The emotions can be difficult at times. If it was someone that I didn’t know or didn’t know me as well as my dad, then it would be a very different encounter each time we would have a problem. Since we know each other so well, we push each other's buttons a lot easier. 

PI: How would you describe you guys' relationship both on and off the floor? 

GC: During the early high school years, especially at the gym, we could talk basketball, but once we got home, we weren’t talking about basketball. My mom helped us separate those two scenarios, especially if we got into an argument. Now, we can both handle it and see where each of us are coming from and talk about basketball wherever. We can just be a family, dad and son, anywhere now. It has changed throughout the years. 

PI: What are your goals at Centerville for the rest of this season?

GC: I’m just hoping we can get everyone to click and have the same energy, which I think will lead to us being very successful. If we can get everyone bought into the role that they need to do, I think we will win and have a lot of fun. 

PI: How would you describe your growth as a player throughout your high school career?

GC: My leadership has grown a lot. I have been in a leadership position all four years and have gotten better at running a team. Obviously, my skill set has improved just from working for four years, but I think the game has slowed down and I have been able to play at my own pace compared to my freshman and sophomore years. 

PI: Congratulations on your commitment to IU. What set them apart from all of your options?

GC: Indiana being a basketball school was a really big part of it. My family has always been around basketball, so that aspect of the school made it feel like home to me. Coach Woodson and his whole coaching staff do a really good job and I want to be apart of them bringing IU back to where it should be, and I think they are well on their way. 

PI: Can you talk a bit about your relationship with Coach Woodson?

GC: He cracks me up because I think he is super funny, but he can also go from being a father-figure to being the best coach he can be. His experience at the NBA level is something that he can offer to everyone that he coaches. He is someone that I truly respect and I’m looking forward to being taught by him.

PI: What are your thoughts on his coaching style? 

GC: It takes after what he has gone through. Playing for Coach Knight, he was pretty strict, and Coach Woodson took that and a part of himself of being a calm guy, and has two switches that he can flip through. He does a really good job of being calm and collected, along with someone that can really get on you. He’s going to do whatever he thinks is right. 

PI: How do you envision your role at Indiana? 

GC: I’m going to bring whatever Coach Woodson thinks he needs for us to win. For me, I want to bring leadership and creation of shots for myself and my teammates. Whatever Coach Woodson asks me to do, I’m going to do the best I can at those things. 

PI: Throughout your entire career, who has been your toughest individual matchup that you’ve faced?

GC: I would say, at the time of playing him, it was Frankie Collins. He was a senior at Arizona Compass Prep and I was a freshman. Him being so athletic and able to move so well made it a tough matchup for me. It was very different from what I had been used to. 

PI: Who are some of your favorite players to watch?

GC: In the NBA, I would say Luka Doncic and Chris Paul. They both can read the game so well. In college, I watch all the Indiana games so watching Jalen Hood-Schifino and Trayce Jackson-Davis in the two-man game is enjoyable. 

PI: Do you model your game after any specific players?

GC: I model my game some after Steve Nash and TJ McConnell. They have roles that I would need to fulfill to play in the NBA, so I would say those two guys. 

PI: Any players in particular you have enjoyed playing with over the years?

GC: I would definitely say Reed Sheppard. Also, Tom House and Richard Rolf from last year’s team. Jonathan Powell and Collin O’Connor from my current high school team, too. I think the seniors that I have played with in my class as well; growing up with them, it has been really cool to play with Kyle Kenney and Emmanuel Deng. I haven’t really had many teammates that I don’t like playing with. I have been fortunate to have liked all the guys that I’ve played with and we’ve had fun playing together.

PI: You and Bronny were teammates for awhile back in the day — how was that?

GC: I liked playing with Bronny; he’s super athletic and always has played the game at a different pace compared to everyone else. Even when we were younger, he had a little more naturally than everyone else. He saw and read things at a high level, even in 5th and 6th grade. 

PI: What’s the most impactful piece of advice you’ve been able to pick up from LeBron?

GC: The biggest thing LeBron ever gave me was confidence. It was something that I struggled with when I first came on with the Blue Chips, especially feeling if I belonged with that high-level of guys. LeBron could sense that and spoke to me about how I deserved to be there and told me to shoot every time I had an opening. Having him believe in me gave me some confidence, especially when you’re a 5th or 6th grader coming from LeBron. 

PI: What are some short-term and long-term goals you have for yourself? 

GC: Short-term, I would say finishing out this season the way that I want to. I want to leave a lasting impact on guys in the Centerville program after me so that would be my short-term goal. Long-term, I want to get to the NBA, so I'm working everyday to make that possible. 

PI: What are you most passionate about outside of basketball?

GC: I don’t have many, but I like shoes and video games sometimes, but don’t play much during the season. I also like working out, lifting, or being outside. 

PI: How would you describe your personality both on and off the floor? 

GC: I’m pretty goofy and don’t really care too much what people think about me. I’m going to do whatever I think is right. I don’t socialize very much, so if I’m not playing basketball, I’m with my family at my house or with my grandparents. On and off the court, I’m super competitive. It doesn’t matter if we are playing cards or in the state championship, I compete with the same intentions to win and that is the driving force behind my life. I just want to win. 

PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?

GC: I have no idea. I have always said that if you have a Plan B, then you aren’t 100% in on Plan A. I haven’t thought about anything else and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll figure something out. 

PI: What is your go-to pre-game meal? 

GC: Usually, we have Chick-fil-A before games, so a chicken sandwich and a cookie. I’ll eat a banana before games for a little extra protection from cramps. 

PI: Do you have any specific pre-game rituals?

GC: We have quite a few as a team. Personally, I tape my wrists and write all the initials of people in my life that I want to play for. As a team, we go into the locker room and have an imaginary ladder, where we will play a song and act like we are going through the imaginary agility ladder. Then, we have a 68 ball, where I read everyone’s name that they wrote down on the ball, detailing who they want to play for. I will then say the name and everyone else yells it. After that, we will go out and one of our assistant coaches has a joke for us, so he will tell us a joke and we will go crazy. After that, we go out for warmups, so that is all before warmups of each game. 

PI: Who are your favorite music artists? 

GC: I listen to a little bit of everything, but I listen to Rod Wave, Lil Baby, and Gunna before games. If I need to calm down before a game, I’ll listen to Luke Combs or Zach Bryan. It just depends on how I feel. 

PI: Biggest pet peeve?

GC: I would say people not trying their best. In basketball, it would be people going half-speed through layup lines. It really bothers me if people are trying to look cool, it rubs me the wrong way. It makes me question what your intentions are for playing and that translates into life, too. 

PI: What’s the best advice you have ever received?

GC: I would say from my parents and them stressing the point of not listening to people that are outside of my circle of friends and family. That has allowed me to live freely and not get sucked into doing things I shouldn’t be doing. Not caring what people think if they aren’t truly with you. 

PI: Who’s someone you really look up to, and why? 

GC: I would say my parents since they are super selfless and work very hard. I’ve been able to take after them with how my work ethic has been. They always have put others before themselves and that’s something that I really admire. 

PI: Talk about a particular moment or time in your life that you feel has really shaped who you are today.

GC: I grew up until 2nd grade in a very small farming town. I was around people that had to work for everything they have. That really shaped my work ethic and being outside shaped my toughness and grittiness. 

PI: What’s one thing most people have no idea about you?

GC: I would probably say being a country boy and my farm background. 

PI: If you had one hashtag to describe yourself, what would it be, and why?

GC: #Gritty because if it comes down to it, I can outwork anybody and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be the best. I can put my head down and work, no matter how I feel. 

PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for? 

GC: Just someone who leads and there are a lot of people more athletic and talented than me, but I want to be someone kids can look to and say, “If I dedicate my life to working as hard as I can at something, I can be really good at it.”


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