There is a fine line between pride and confidence.
At a glance, the two can often seem indistinguishable. The divide is often even harder to discern for newcomers; inexperience can often make confidence seem like pride. It is easy to misinterpret things when you are an amateur pro player experiencing the spotlight for the first time. I have seen several players like this.
Ucal has not changed since the moment he debuted as a professional player. He believes he is the best and knows he can defeat any adversary. Before I conducted a very long interview with Ucal, I did not know the source of his confidence. However, it has now been revealed to me. Ucal is a pro player down to his bones. He is an engine that will not stop until he is at the top. From the moment he debuted, Ucal was destined to perform at the highest levels thanks to his unmatched and unwavering confidence.
¤ You started your career with one of the strongest teams in Korea, kt Rolster. One might say it was the best possible start for an amateur player. What did you learn from kt?
Although I cannot fully elaborate on what I had learned, it seems like I was able to learn almost everything at once at the beginning of my career. My teammates’ experience, the coaches, head coaches nurturing players, etc. Overall, I learned the mindset my veteran teammates had achieved. I am grateful to kt Rolster for being able to teach me everything I needed to know to be a successful pro player.
¤ From what I’ve heard, you have quite a lot of respect for Deft.
To be more specific, the person I respect the most is Score. Deft is a player that I like a lot. While many people think of Faker as the greatest, almighty player, I believe, without question, Score is one of those players. Placing 2nd must have been a difficult outcome to accept, but they never gave up. I was in awe when they kept going no matter what.
Deft is like a close friend to me. We have a lot in common. Deft always seems like he doesn’t care but takes care of you behind the scenes. While he doesn’t show it, Deft actually has a lot of pride. And yet he gives that all up for the team. I found that to be amazing.
¤ Despite being fairly new to the pro scene, you have a lot of confidence in the mid lane. Has your opinion on being the best mid laner changed at all?
After starting my career and getting eliminated at the quarterfinals for Worlds, I realized I still had room to grow. I think I can make 2019 my year. The reason why I moved to Afreeca Freecs is similar. Results are results, but I knew I could improve there.
I knew that the best possible team to help me grow as a player was Afreeca. Although I work extremely hard, I admit that I am still a human being. As a human being, I tend to relax every now and then. I believe Afreeca will be able to properly adjust my course if I relax at the wrong time.
¤ Why did you feel that way after losing in the quarterfinals?
Of course, I wanted to win. But, losing was a more valuable experience. When it comes to gaining something, I believe you gain more from losing than winning. After losing to Rookie, I realized how to behave and prepare in and outside of the game.
¤ To make it to the quarterfinals in the year of your debut is impressive. The regret must have had an equally strong impact.
It was unfortunate. Despite trying to tell myself otherwise, people around me kept saying how unfortunate it was. It only made it worse. Personally, I was more ashamed that I was unable to be the best mid laner; more than being unable to win Worlds. Nevertheless, I still have plenty of opportunities in the future. This is why I am completely okay with everything.
¤ Since you spoke briefly on why you joined Afreeca, could you explain a bit further in detail?
In an attempt to be an S tier player, I analyzed my potential. From this, I realized I was not that far away [from the top]. But, every step I take from now on becomes exponentially more difficult. I decided that Afreeca Freecs was the team that could help me on my journey. Afreeca Freecs is a team that is infamous for their long practice hours. While fans question if my reasoning to join Afreeca was because of Kiin, to be honest, I wanted to join Afreeca the moment I saw Coach iloveoov.
I had always wanted a coach who could keep the players in check while also motivating them. I knew Coach iloveoov would be perfect in that respect. This is why before I had any face to face discussions with teams, I contacted Afreeca first. When I started to become more curious about Afreeca, I contacted Kiin to ask him about the team environment. He told me not to come. Ignoring his advice, I came anyway (laughs).
Recently, it has become common to see players who pair up with other players they want to be with and find teams together. For me, instead of picking who I want to play with, I always thought it was more important to know how desperate a team was, how united they are, and how steadily they worked throughout a season. It is something anyone can do but not everyone does it. As long as I continue doing what I have been doing, the improvement and results will follow.
¤ Aside from Spirit, Afreeca Freecs has relatively young and new players. Once the youngest, you are now the leader for the team. Isn’t the atmosphere completely different?
First off, I have a lot of friends in Afreeca. It feels like a family. Although I realize that this comfortable atmosphere may be a liability, as long as we keep each other in check, I think the potential is far greater.
¤ It is only your second season, but your mindset seems to be as good as any other veteran.
I had a goal in mind when I was an amateur. Despite having a lot to lose, I have even greater things to gain. Hence, I should keep moving forward. All I think about right now is getting better.
¤ Your mindset is really like no other. It must not have been easy to have this mindset as an amateur.
With whatever I do, my only priority is to be the best or second best in a group of 100. Usually, an amateur gets praise when he or she achieves mediocre or somewhat good results. I don’t want to be in the category that everyone predicts I’ll belong to. I want to be a unique or one-of-a-kind player. This idea of mine has been the same from the day I started to this very moment.
¤ Yourself, Chovy, and Showmaker are all amazing amateur mid laners. What are your thoughts on these players?
For Chovy, with his experience in 2018 as a basis, I know he is going to do well. In regards to Showmaker, I have heard a lot of good things about him. However, I reckon I just have to see his performance myself. The one thing that is for certain is that I am the best out of all of them.
¤ Other than your own team, which team do you think will be formidable in 2019?
Rather than as a player, I am kind of curious as a fan. The teams are kt Rolster, Kingzone, and SKT. I am really curious how they will perform. These teams can all be incredibly strong as long as the players mend themselves well. If not, I think it can backfire on them pretty hard.
¤ How well will Afreeca Freecs do in 2019?
Well first off, I just want to say that Spirit is an amazingly talented player. Despite his long and successful career, Spirit still has the same drive to win that you’d find in a fresh amateur. Also, I think Twinkle will do very well. His style is similar to Ning’s aggressiveness, and his will to work hard is unquestionable.
¤ Lastly, any last words for the upcoming season?
I’ll make it short. I will try my best to not only work hard but also to become the best mid laner. I hope you guys continue to support me.