Yaman "yam" Ergenekon is an Australian native competing in North America with the Detroit Renegades and serves as the team's in-game leader. Though they're one of the stronger teams competing in NA, they've yet to make a big mark on the scene.
Ahead of DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, yam took the time to speak to theScore esports about the struggles of being an Australian team competing in NA and the team's upward trajectory under their new ownership.
Last year was an interesting one for you and the team. Towards the end of 2015 you guys relocated to North America and in 2016 you continued to acclimate to the region. What’s your summation of the year?
The transition to North America actually occurred in the second half of 2015 when we were picked up by the LA Renegades (a North American LCS League of Legends Team).
For us, this was a massive move. Although we were already playing international tournaments, we were never a team that played Counter-Strike full-time. It was just a fun hobby to us we did at nights and weekends. So not only did we have to move to the other side of the world, we also had to leave behind friends, family, pets, jobs and our life as we knew it in order to start a new one as a “professional gamer.”
The biggest lessons I think we learnt were about time management. We previously all worked full-time jobs, so all of a sudden we were faced with just nothing to do but play Counter-Strike, and that’s exactly what we did.
We felt pressure to always be doing something Counter-Strike related, we stayed in Las Vegas for about 6 months on-and-off and only went out once or twice in that entire time.
We practiced extremely hard, long hours, but it was mainly just scrims against other teams. We didn’t really review much footage, talk about tactics or just talk about how we want to play the game and fix our mistakes. We tried to adapt to a European style and we lost our identity because of it.
We had ups and downs like any team. A small one that not many people talk about was the RGN event that took place as the afterthought to the iBP Cup. The event was plagued with delays and issues and we started the bracket play at 9 a.m. and finished at something absurd like 3 a.m. the next day.
We managed to 2-0 Liquid and Luminosity and lost the final to Cloud9. I think a lot of people have erased that event from their memory, but everyone was under the same conditions and for us it was a good win.
In that period the biggest downs would of been not qualifying for any of the Majors and missing out on the ESL Pro League finals because of lapse in concentration and some forfeits between other teams that hurt our chances.
This lineup looks like one of the strongest iterations of Renegades, but you guys unfortunately did not qualify for the ELEAGUE Major 2017. What do you believe is holding the team back? What needs to be changed in order to improve?
The ELEAGUE Major qualifier was a tough time for us.
We went into the event the most prepared and practiced we have ever been to any event. We had a bootcamp in Poland for two weeks before the event and we were playing very well. We had perfect flights with no delays and the ELEAGUE Hotel and accommodations are the best going around, so for us to fail this event left us asking lots of questions.
We returned to Australia and took some time off and we each evaluated the performance and we unanimously agreed something had to change, but nobody could really pinpoint exactly what they wanted the change to be.
In the end we all thought each of the players are capable of playing at the top level and have all showed signs of it throughout 2016. So by adding a new coach we thought it could harness the skill and improve consistency, to get better results and play the way we know we can play.
You guys have changed your coach Nicholas "peekay" Wise for former mousesports coach Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović. Why was this change made? What are your first impressions working with kassad?
The change was made because we wanted to try something different. We didn’t feel like peekay was underperforming, we just wanted a different aspect on how to play Counter-Strike.
We really didn’t know kassad at all before getting him on board and we think that’s a good thing. With peekay we were all friends and most of us grew up with him playing Counter-Strike 1.6. kassad is quite strict and stamps out bad plays by us as soon as we make them. So I guess the level of discipline is what has changed.
One of Renegades’ co-owners, James "GBJame^s" O' Connor, was the former coach for Team Liquid when Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev was still part of that roster. Has he ever defaulted into coaching mode? How hands-on is he with the team?
Yes, James is a coach by nature. He’s always watching Counter-Strike and coming up with ideas. Usually he keeps his thoughts to himself or shares them with the coach to keep the players focused and not have differing opinions on things. James lives in a different state so he isn’t really hands-on but we know he is only a phone call away if we ever need him for things.
You’ve also notably been part of the Renegades as it changed hands, now owned by Boston Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko. How has your situation, or the team’s situation, changed in those transition periods?
It’s a completely different environment. In the LA Renegades it felt like we were more about exposure than being a legit top team. We had temporary accommodations, the bare minimum in uniforms and support staff.
We were also very isolated, it was just us six in Las Vegas with the owners, staff and other teams living in LA. The owners in LA Renegades did a lot for us and we are forever thankful that they took a chance on six guys from Australia, but being so isolated was the downfall and ultimately the reason we moved on.
With the Detroit Renegades it really is more like a team environment. We have a fully furnished six-bedroom, five-bathroom house. An eight-seater truck, access to Jonas’ gym and the owners and other teams all live in the same neighborhood and we regularly do activities and fun stuff with them.
I think this is the reason our results have started to improve recently and will continue to do so throughout 2017.
You guys have kicked off 2017 on a high note by qualifying for DreamHack Masters Las Vegas. What are the main obstacles going into that event? Any plans to do anything fun in Vegas?
To be honest we haven’t really looked too much into the event yet as we haven’t seen the groups or format. Once that information is known we can prepare for our opponents.
Having spent most of 2016 in Las Vegas I think we have a few ideas of things we can do, but it really will depend on how deep into the tournament we can progress. It’s all business until you are eliminated.
As far as Jonas goes, I think it’s All-Star weekend so he may have some commitments but it would be cool to have him at any event regardless of location. He’s a super cool guy and is a magnet for good times and positive attitude.
DHM Vegas will be the first event to use the latest map pool, so Infer-new instead of Dust II. What are your thoughts on this?
It’s good that maps are constantly changing to keep the game fresh, but unfortunately for us Dust II was one of our stronger maps so we will need to put in lots of work to get our Inferno really good as well. In saying that, I wish the communication was better and we had more warning when maps will change. Pro League Week 2 and Dreamhack Las Vegas are both coming up very fast and time spent recently on perfecting our Dust II is a set back.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking
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