On Feb. 28, Team Liquid announced that Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin would be replacing Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer in the mid lane. Sure, the role swap was unexpected, but perhaps the most surprising part of the announcement was the news that Piglet's replacement would be University of California, Irvine collegiate player Jung "Youngbin" Young-bin.
Since leaving Team Liquid Academy in April, Youngbin had taken a backseat to the professional scene but has returned to help the team stabilize heading into the final leg of the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split and helped them defeat Immortals 2-1 on Friday. In two matches that spanned a total of six games against Immortals and Echo Fox he compiled a combined 11/20/46 scoreline on the likes of Varus, Ezreal and Jhin.
In an interview with theScore esports, Youngbin opened up about his time on TLA and his hopes for his inaugural LCS season.
What was it like to go from Team Liquid Academy and UCI's collegiate League of Legends team to playing for Team Liquid in the NA LCS?
It's like that day, the dream came true. I would say that. There's a clear difference between the mindset that I have from TLA and being on the NA [LCS] team, definitely.
What are the differences between TLA and TL LCS?
So, when I was in TLA, I didn't really take — I mean, I did take scrims seriously but I didn't really put all of my effort into it obviously because I had to figure out my life situation. But, being on TL, everything is there for me; the foods are there, ready and everything, so I can fully put myself into focusing on the games. So that's different. And because being in the LCS was one of my dreams, I don't want to wake up from this dream basically so I'm trying my hardest to stay asleep.
What were you studying at UCI?
I wanted to study computer game science but I kind of f**ked up when I was first attending the school and picked undeclared because I wasn't sure if I wanted psychology or computer game science. So I'm technically, on paper, I'm under an undeclared department but I wanted to study computer game science. The other dream that I had was becoming a psychiatrist, I was interested in how people think basically.
How hard was the decision to leave UCI for TL?
The decision wasn't really that hard for me, to be honest. The only reason I joined UCI was because of the LoL team and I wanted to compete in the Collegiate League and keep pursuing my goal of becoming a pro gamer at one point.
Joining UCI was definitely one of my best excuses that I could give to myself that, "Oh, I'm not wasting my time, I'm still doing something, if the gaming doesn't go well I can still get another career as a psychiatrist or game designer or something like that." So that was the only reason I joined UCI and when TL contacted me — it wasn't really a hard decision for me because this was my main goal back then.
Has your family been supportive of your LoL career?
At the beginning, five years ago, they were not very supportive. But after I joined Robert Morris University and got a scholarship by playing the game, they started supporting me. Now, they are watching my games and every time I play games in a day they always message me, "Oh you did well, oh I'm sorry for the loss," you know? So they're more engaged with my career, they're more interested. And now they're trying to learn the game, how the game works.
How did your UCI team take the new that you were leaving?
They were definitely sad but they were fully supporting my decision and my chance. They were supportive. They wanted to make sure that I wouldn't make a bad decision because the situation when I was first joining TL was they were last place, right? There was a chance of them getting relegated so they were being — they wanted me to be cautious when I was signing on. But they were fully supportive and they were caring about it.
Are you worried about the potential for TL to be relegated?
I don't really have any worries. I'm not really worried about the team, I'm just worried about myself. That's about it. Because obviously, I'm the rookie of the team and they're all veterans, they've been playing professionally a lot. Even though I played professionally back then, I took a break and then I went to UCI so obviously my skill differences are pretty up there compared to others. I'm just worrying about myself playing bad and not showing off my full potential during the LCS Split.
You told Yahoo Esports that no AD carry really intimidates you or worries you — do you have any players, in any region, who you're afraid of?
Not really, no. Because I think confidence is a really important trait for a player to have because it's all about confidence in the game. If you're already intimidated by the player in game then it shows in your plays and then you'll make more mistakes than you usually do. I'm not intimidated by any opponents — or at least, I try not to be.
Are there any players you look up to?
For NA, there are two players that surprisingly both happen to be from TL. One is FeniX and one is Piglet. I've been living with them and I've been scrimming with them and when I see them, how they play and how they think in game, then it's really surprising to me. I don't really look up to them but I respect everyone, I respect them and I respect all of my teammates.
What gives you the greatest hope for the team this split?
Because I can feel it in-game. This team does not deserve to be the last team. Every time I practice with them, basically I've been playing with them since the try-out period and when I watch and when I play with them, when we play against any other LCS teams, I can feel that they are not a bottom team of LCS. At least, not right now with this roster.
Your coach, David Lim, told Yahoo Esports that you talk more than Piglet does as a mid laner, and that the biggest focus for the team now is working on communication. How is that going?
I would say that definitely I am really talkative during the game but, before the first match that we had yesterday, I thought Piglet didn't really talk any. But when it comes down to the real match, the LCS matches, then everyone talks a lot.
And during the LCS matches, what I noticed is that I didn't really have to talk as much as I usually did because everyone is already talking a lot. I definitely talk a lot but like, it doesn't mean that the others are not talking.
So there's a difference in comms between scrims and LCS games?
Oh, there is definitely a clear difference. Everyone is already engaged and everyone is totally focusing in the [LCS] game compared to scrims, and I think we are aiming to play like LCS matches when we're playing scrims.
What's your role in comms?
When I was at UCI, I was the one that would collect all the information and then shotcall, but for here I'm more in charge of feeding information to the team. Timers, the wave situations, who is where; basically, all the information that is needed for the team to make the correct call.
Every role has different information that they receive from the game, they have their own perspective because they're at a different location on the map, right? So as AD carry, I'm trying to give information that I receive as the AD carry to the team so that we can make correct decisions. Basically, that's my role.
Who on the team has the most weight on their shoulders?
I would say Sam (Samson "Lourlo" Jackson) and Reignover have really big roles and Matt, Matt also has — everyone has [responsibilities]. In every situation there is a different person who can make a decision for the team. It depends on their champion's abilities or the location that they're in, so I would say that everyone has the role of shot calling for different periods [of the game], it depends on the situation of the game.
Going into Week 7, Team Liquid are near the bottom of the pack. Do you think you can make it to the spring playoffs or will we have to wait until the summer split to see TL shine?
I think my teammates are fully capable, the team is fully capable of making it to the playoffs and I always say that the key for our team to make playoffs is really on me. It really depends on my performance during the game, I would say. Because I'm a rookie, I would say, to the scene so basically I'm not very consistent with my skills so if I'm playing really good then I'm really good, I'm playing really really good. But if I'm playing bad then I play bad so it really depends on me I guess.
Basically, I need to be consistent in terms of my performance for us to make playoffs but I would say we are capable. I'm aiming for it.
Kristine "Vaalia" Hutter is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find her on Twitter.