The Scouting Grounds participants are chosen through a point system that notes where players are in the challenger ladder every couple weeks and assigns points relative to their position. All those invited to the 2018 Scouting Grounds event made up the top talent in their role throughout the summer. All but one.
The Team Infernal jungler, Srkenji, is actually a versatile support main, picking whatever he needs to fill a team comp. When he found out he would barely miss Scouting Grounds in the support position, he started spamming jungle to make sure he would still qualify. Even in his off role, he kept a positive win record in Challenger and made enough points to qualify for SG. Upon arriving, however, the other players doubted him and mocked his ability to properly jungle. Though he definitely surpassed everyone’s expectations in the role, it’s true he had some pretty significant drawbacks. His knowledge of pathing and his understanding of when to punish, when to pressure, and when NOT to cs a wave was limited. His smites weren’t perfect, and his Rift Heralds a bit off. It was clear that he was good, but also not a high challenger jungle main.
However, those are all the entirely wrong thing to focus on when considering his candidacy for an Academy roster.
Though it was immediately clear that he would need some help, as soon as he received feedback from coaches, his game sense evolved. In the first review, coach Inero focused on him and the major elements of jungling competitively vs solo queue. Kenji listened intently the whole time, and asked smart follow up questions, showing his ability to process the coaching he received. He never took the criticism harshly, and was always eager to hear more about how he could improve and be a better resource for his team.
After the very first scrim as the players were exiting their review, one of the Team Infernal coaches made an off handed comment that he should place his ward in a different spot in the river during the level one set up. Not only did he change his warding in game, he also re-explained why it worked to a teammate later that night. This is a perfect demonstration of how he retains information and acts on it, even when as trivial as shifting a warding position. Though it may seem elementary, many players do not actually heed the advice of their coach. Others may try to, but forget in the moment of it all. Kenji always makes sure to consider the things he has learned before acting, and his progression in the tournament made that clear. When he made a skill order error on Gragas, not leveling Body Slam until third, he was told in review why it was so bad. In the following Gragas game, he leveled his skills correctly and escaped death because of it.
Not only did Kenji utilize review time, he also sought out coaches during other breaks to get more information on specific situations. He never wasted a minute in the NA LCS studio and he was always the last to leave. He worked overtime in between sessions to make sure he got the most out of SG as possible. If he wasn’t talking to coaches, he was talking to other SG competitors or to the visiting LCS players. His improvement showed too, with some even mentioning he looked like the second best jungler at the event despite being a support main.
He has an incredible ability to retain information and adapt his play, he is proven to be a hard worker, and he has demonstrated his desire to be in the industry, even switching roles to jungle to ensure he had a chance at making it to SG. He grinded hundreds of games in the last few weeks to qualify. He is hungry enough. He has the motivation. It would be a shame if teams completely overlooked his growth and his passion. Kenji has serious potential, and if the Academy system exists to help develop NA talent, then there aren’t many other players more worth spending resources on.
Lastly, Kenji was an amazing team player. Never once did he attempt to blame a death or misplay on a teammate. Never did he grief his team or make excuses for a bad rotation or play call. He was humble in his pop-off games (yes he had a few of those) and apologetic - but determined - in his poor performances. That is the type of guy you want on an Academy team. Someone that is eager to learn, excited to grind, and always willing to cooperate with the rest of the team. Not argumentative, not rude, and surely not lazy. More impressively, this was just what we saw from him in his second role. We didn’t even get to see his performance as support. And while it’s true his support is still untested in a competitive space, Kenji is a sponge for information and very willing to put forth the effort into improving, so you can bet he would perform well in the duo lane.
Taking him at face value for what he showed on stage this past Saturday and passing him up for an Academy spot would be a huge mistake. To recap, Kenji shows passion and dedication, along with the ability to learn effectively. He has a proven ability to adapt, switching from support to jungle at the end of the season and maintaining his challenger spot. He is a great teammate and an incredible candidate to sign= and develop in Academy.