There were many rumors before the LCK 2017 season that a ‘Super Team’ would be born. Looking at the results, kt Rolster became that team, but Longzhu, who signed the ‘Prilla’ duo also gave the fans a big surprise.
The members who led the Rox Tigers’ best days have left, but Kim “PraY” Jong-in and Kang “Gorilla” Beom-hyun changed teams together. Furthermore, the combination of Koo “Expession” Bon-taek, a duo that had played together before, hottest rookie of 2016 Lee “Crash” Dong-woo, and unique player Song “Fly” Yong-jun seemed to have some good synergy.
Unfortunately, Longzhu Gaming finished 7th in the spring season with 1 penalty point. The team almost crumbled just before the opening of the season, and Kim “Ssong” Sang-soo left the team prior to the 2nd round. It wasn’t known to many people, but PraY tried hard to keep the team positive, more than ever.
Pray was busy analyzing matches beforehand and after, and stayed in the practice room the longest. He had to resolve negative feedback and needed to give advice to Crash, who was the least experienced. If the teammates needed something, he was the one to sacrifice his effort. PraY really gritted his teeth and endured the spring season.
“I remember when I first came to Longzhu. I met the coach and an office member at a café near my home. I picked my team [while] prioritizing winning over money. I thought it was possible, but the result wasn’t good. It was a hard time, thinking that maybe my skills are going down with my age.
The most regretful part was with Song Yong-jun (Fly). He liked me a lot, he was the first one to open up his mind towards me. Also, he has a lot of potential and is already good as well. It’s hard to be objective about him when somebody asks, since he was with me when we went through all the hard times.”
It wasn’t a matter of the players with Longzhu Gaming’s spring season, just as PraY said. The team itself was in a dire condition. As the losses piled up, the players had to withstand the criticism. They were losing willpower with no solid support to rely on. Eventually, Longzhu started rebuilding the team at the summer season. Expession, Fly, and Crash left the team, while Gwak “BDD” Bo-seong landed on the starting roster. Mun “Cuzz” U-chan, who was signed as both a player and streamer, hurriedly prepared for debut in a. Kim “Khan” Dong-ha and Kim “Rascal” Kwang-hee also joined the team.
The “Fun” team PraY always wanted was finally made, and with the changes, they stood up to be champions of the summer season. The change of atmosphere was the biggest factor. Also, the ‘Prilla’ duo pushed the team forward as leaders, being the oldest of the team. The increased trust between the players was a big factor as well.
“It would seem like the change of members was a big factor, but there were more changes than that. The different atmosphere after the internal problems of the team being solved was one of the biggest factors. Of course, the new members did have cheerful personalities. It seemed like the team would do well despite the bad results in the early scrimmages.
If I compare it to the ROX Tigers, I was good with Gyung-ho (Smeb) apart from skills, and coach Jeong No-chul made us comfortable. In the lighter mood, players did what they wanted to do with the trust in each other; there was less burden, and the results were good as well.
That’s why the atmosphere is really important. Since everybody is different, it’s hard to become one, but if we do, the results follow. It’s better if the players don’t carry any extrinsic worries from games. Apart from the atmosphere, last year, the bottom duo was critical. We thought that our bottom lineup was weak. At that time we didn’t even talk to each other much. We promised to talk more and make improvements if we stayed on the same team, and this was very helpful.”
Looking back at the top to bottom seasons, PraY accomplished all his initial goals. At the time PraY was negotiating with Longzhu Gaming, PraY had said: “I want to make a team that can reach the League of Legends World Championship, but I don’t want to aim for 3rd; the goal is winning the championship.”
As a result, PraY set a rare accomplishment: becoming an LCK Champion in three different teams. A worldwide title of 5-time Worlds challenger followed. However, being one of the favorites of the competition, PraY’s challenge at Worlds 2017 ended at the quarter finals, slashed by Samsung Galaxy.
“I don’t know if being champion in three different teams is a good thing, it seems like I’m collecting jerseys (laughs). I did become champion three times, that part is good. I was going to take a trip with my friends after doing well in Worlds, but we were cut off earlier than expected, so I was depressed.
There’s no excuse for losing to Samsung Galaxy. It could be lack of experience, but that is what ability is. The important thing is that Samsung Galaxy was better, and they won. It wasn’t the best scenario for me, but I should be satisfied with reaching that smaller goal.
I’m just regretful for losing the biggest chance to prove myself. I must have a jinx of losing to champions(laughs). While practicing, I thought SKT T1 had a greater chance to win, but Samsung Galaxy got stronger.”
People tend to be surprised upon seeing PraY’s quiet side, since he’s very cheerful most of the time. It was difficult to hear his worries due to his introverted nature, but the 25-year-old carefully revealed his worries about prejudice against older players.
“Professionals measure ability by practicing. I used to think I wasn’t as good back when I was in ROX Tigers. I might have thought that I’d aged without realizing. I always try to be determined whenever that thought comes to me.
I wish the older players didn’t leave. I don’t want to be the oldest player yet. There’s prejudice against older players. Jang “Marin” Gyeong-hwan and Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong broke that, but mostly, age is an issue when evaluating a player. I want to be evaluated by ability only. I want the others to have a long career, and prove that age doesn’t matter.
I thought that winning Worlds would be a good way of proving that, but since I wasn’t able to win it during the five competitions, I’m a bit worried about if I can do it. I still won’t give up, and will try harder. From time to time I think that I would shed a tear if I do win it all (laughs).”
PraY must have worried about what any player with a long career does. But he didn’t lose his cheery mindset being together with younger teammates. PraY, who had just confirmed his contract with Longzhu Gaming, asserted his expectations and determination for the 2018 season.
“I think Bo-seong(Bdd) is a treasure. I signed the contract thinking that I want to get better along with the teammates. It has only been a season with the current teammates. We will set goals higher for the next season; I think that the team would do better if I perform better.
There are teammates that aren’t as comfortable with me due to age, but I’ll do my best to make them feel comfortable. What I want to say is that there’s no ‘wrong thing’ in LoL. We are pros who have to make shotcalling come true. I respect all opinions if they’re not too unreasonable. If these things hold together, we will always be considered favorites.
I think that everybody was sorry to have been cut off at the quarterfinals. It was a good experience and I wish everybody does their best so the older players can get carried (Laugh).”