Regardless of what sport, becoming the Rookie of the Year is a great honor to a player. It’s an award that can be won only once in their career. Kim “Croco” Dong-beom set foot on the LCK stage for the first time in 2021, and he gained the Rookie of the Year title with his aggressive and proactive plays.
However, Croco's sophomore year was a bit harsh on him. Liiv SANDBOX decided to rebuild the team, and Croco had to become the captain and the core of the team. He was one of the proven players, so he was in the blind spot from most of the team’s feedback, and his hunger to improve wasn’t fulfilled.
This experience led Croco to DRX. He believed that the ‘23 DRX roster, which consists of several seasoned veterans, would fulfill his needs entirely. Especially, the fact that Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee remained in DRX had a big effect on Croco’s decision.
It’s the first time you’re moving teams since your debut. How was the stove league?
It was my first time, and it was really hectic. A month before FA, Liiv SANDBOX allowed me to contact other teams, so I talked to many teams and went to their facilities. There was so much to think about. Still, I don’t think it’s that different. Pro players’ lives are similar. [Laughs]
Why did you choose to join DRX?
During the stove league, I spoke with teams from the LCK and teams abroad. I was going to move with FATE, there was a good chance of going abroad. I wasn’t too afraid of going abroad, so I was discussing with an LPL team. In that situation, DRX contacted me, and my choice was DRX.
Originally, I wanted to play with BeryL at least once. When I heard what he says in comms, I thought his shotcalls were great and clean. That was one of the reasons I picked DRX.
You’ve played with FATE. How about the other players? Are you close?
I know deokdam a bit, and I don’t know the other players. We just said hello when we ran into each other. Everyone’s different from what I saw in the arena. BeryL starts conversations more often than I thought, and Rascal just laughs when he sees me. I don’t know why. I’m getting acquainted while working out together.
How do you think the team style and synergy would be?
Depending on the data I have from playing against the players, I think everyone has a strong voice. It’ll be important to roll together as one in all situations. Since everyone’s nice, I don’t think we’ll have much trouble. FATE has a big voice, so maybe he’ll collide once or twice with BeryL.
I heard that Pyosik had a quarrel with BeryL. I know that you also have a strong voice. Don’t you think you’ll have any conflicts with BeryL?
He’s a player who won Worlds twice. If he gives feedback, I don’t want to be stubborn. Last time, I contacted Pyosik, and he said that it actually happened. I got some advice from him as well, so I think accepting what BeryL says to build team synergy would be best.
You mentioned that you wanted to play in the same team as FATE.
I’ve been in Liiv SANDBOX while the team was in the rebuilding process in 2022. The results were alright, but I thought it wasn’t enough to improve myself and fulfill my needs. In that regard, I didn’t there were many mid laners as good as FATE, so we decided to move together.
You had to become the core of the team in your sophomore year. Did that pressure you?
At first, it was so much pressure on my shoulders. As I played, I thought it was kind of unfair. I had to play as the captain in only my second year in the league, and I didn’t know if I could do it, or if what I was doing was right. Also, I thought I still needed to learn a lot, but during feedback time, I didn’t get feedback more often than not. That was because we needed to improve the other players to become a better team.
I also thought, ‘I was going to work really hard in my sophomore year, but why did this happen?’ So I wanted to join a team where I could improve, and DRX had a great environment to satisfy my hunger.
Talking about the 2022 season, Worlds slipped through your fingers at the last moment. How did you feel then?
The meta favored us in the summer. At that time, we thought we didn’t know how long this meta would last, but we should benefit as much as possible. So when the meta shifted, it was bad news for us, and there were some anxieties as we played.
It was really close, but that experience was a good enough experience, despite all the regrets. That experience might be one of the reasons DRX reached out to me.
You did say not being able to improve over the last year was regretful, but you still would have improved. What would that be?
In ‘21, my decision-making was shaky, and I just followed the team. In ‘22, my decision-making improved, and I learned to move more for the team. This year, I watched a lot of how Canyon played. He would have something up his sleeve to maintain his position as one of the best junglers in the world. I watched his games to learn and think about his thoughts and decision-making in the situation he’s put in.
Was Canyon the most difficult to face during 2022?
Frankly, in the ‘21 season, it was Peanut, but there were none in ‘22. I was confident enough in the games to think that I can beat anyone in the jungle.
How do you think it’ll be next year?
There would be players that can improve 100%, and some could improve 150% or 200%. Personally, I think I can improve infinitely — it’s just that I haven’t yet reached my full potential. If I do well, DRX would do well too.
Which team are you looking out for the most?
First, it’s T1. No players have changed, so it won’t take long for them to build synergy. I thought Deft was the best player at Worlds 2022. Since DWG KIA is a strong team, they’ll do well with the addition of Deft.
What’s DRX’s goal for 2023?
Since I’ve reached 3rd place, I want to get higher next year. So I want to be the champion or the runner-up. Also, I felt that I have to work really hard in the spring to suffer less in the summer.
You would want to play on an international stage as well.
Several times, I thought I would be able to reach Worlds. I felt that in ‘21 and this year as well. This time, I won’t think there’s a next year and go all-in to go this year.
What do you want to gain through the 2023 season?
I want to become the best jungler in the LCK. To do so, I need to beat myself. This year, I didn’t get much feedback, so when I thought something wasn’t right, I had to examine my own plays and give myself feedback. This year, there’s BeryL, and other players could point out my problems, so I believe I could get a lot of help.
Any last comments to the fans?
This was the first time I'd been through a stove league, so it was long, and I was nervous. There were many fans who sent me supportive messages, and that was a big help to me. One of what they told me was that they'll cheer for me wherever I go. Thanks to them, I was able to go through everything with positive thoughts. Thank you for supporting me, and I'll show you interesting games in DRX, so please keep cheering for me.