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100 Next Players Leave Their Mark at 2020 NA Scouting Grounds

Nick Ray  | 
100 Next

In its first year, 100 Thieves’ Next program sent one player to LCS and four to 2020 NA Scouting Grounds. (Photo courtesy 100 Thieves)

At the start of summer, we spoke with 100 Thieves’ General Manager Chris “PapaSmithy” Smith about 100 Thieves Next, the developmental division of the org’s League of Legends program. 100T had just promoted Philippe “Poome” Lavoie-Giguere from 100X to the main roster, and when we asked him about his vision for the project, his answer left us all excited for the future of 100X alums:

“We definitely didn’t bring on Next for an easy PR win,” he started. “We truly believe in starting grassroots and being aggressive about the path of some of those players.

TSM, and now Cloud9, have steadily invested in inhouse amateur programs over the years, with TSM producing impressive results already with TSM Junior. Now, four members of the first 100X cohort have graduated and moved on to participate in the 2020 North American Scouting Grounds, giving us a look at the fruits of 100X’s inaugural year.

This Scouting Grounds, held from November 9th to November 14th, was one of the most competitive to date, and the stakes for getting picked up by an org higher than ever.  For 100X’s Xin “Nxi” Dinh, mid laner Jouhan “Copy” Pathmanathan, support Osama “Auto” Alkhalaileh, and bot laner Sean “Yeon” Sung, however, it like another day at the office.

A CUT ABOVE THE REST

We spoke with nearly every player in attendance at the 2020 NA Scouting Grounds, which was held remotely for the first time this year. In our interactions with 100X’s Copy, Auto, Nxi, and Yeon, it was abundantly clear how prepared they were to go pro in ways other than just their gameplay.

It’s rarely mentioned that there are other aspects to becoming a pro aside from having sharp mechanics. The League of Legends Championship Series is entering its third year of franchising, and more and more players are realizing that career longevity is equally influenced by the things they’re doing out of game. Things like media interactions, personal branding on social media, and streaming are just as important to a sustainable career. Some organizations like TSM, are beginning to incorporate these things into their player development curriculum.

“When [players] join our Junior team or even the Academy team, if they’re streaming a lot then we help them,” said former TSM Head Coach Parth Naidu. “We find a good medium in what they need to learn in terms of the basics of branding and media training and then push them in boundaries where they feel comfortable.”

As a player with years of Academy and LCS experience under his belt already, Auto is expected to be one of the more grounded players at the event. He told us about how humbling the experience was since he had role-swapped to ADC since the last time he attended Scouting Grounds in 2016.

We talked to the rest of his old teammates from 100X about why they decided to go pro and were pleasantly surprised by  the level of composure and professionalism they displayed in their first LCS interviews despite being total rookies.

Copy had been playing since Season 3 and climbing steadily before 100T Head Coach Tony “Zikz” Gray messaged him about joining 100 Next. Nxi enjoyed playing the game as a fun escape, and made the decision to postpone his pre-med track in order to take a shot at going pro. Yeon was picked up by 100 Next after playing with an amateur team for only a few months.

Working with an LCS organization and having access to their resources as an amateur player is a rare opportunity that can be formative; Yeon, Nxi, Copy, and Auto utilized this privilege to its fullest extent. The conditions that need to be met in order to become a pro, while difficult to reach, are fairly straightforward. If you’re good and find avenues to compete and stand out, you can eventually get noticed. What it takes to be a pro, however, isn’t something one can learn online. It’s a culmination of knowledge and experience passed down from others who’ve seen it firsthand.

“100X gave us a more professional outlook of how to show ourselves,” said Yeon. “It definitely helped in Scouting Grounds. If I didn’t have that, I think maybe I’d be a little more nervous and unprepared.”

MAKING WAVES

Following Scouting Grounds, Copy, Nxi, and Yeon were picked up by Dignitas, FlyQuest, and CLG respectively in the draft.

Three out of four players being drafted into 10 available spots for 20 Scouting Grounds Participants is an impressive result for 100X’s first graduating class, but bringing up players capable of capturing the eyes of LCS teams was always the program’s goal from the very beginning. The testimonies given by Auto and Nxi all pointed toward the 100 Next coaching staff of Kelsey Moser and Kevin “FallenBandit” Wu as the driving force behind this culture of success within the program.

“I give huge props to FallenBandit as well because he was a previous player and now he’s a coach. He just wants to pass down what he thought he needed when he was becoming a pro player and you can just see it. All of those players have gotten a lot better,” said Auto.

“FallenBandit and Kelsey were super nice when I first joined and everyone else too,” said Nxi. “They made me feel welcomed from day one and it made me feel super good because I felt like I was always part of a team and I could put my input in and wouldn’t get hamed. Everyone was really open-minded. I’m really glad that my first competitive experience was with that group of people.”

100X players were always a part of the conversation when discussing some of the best performers at this year’s Scouting Grounds. Yeon proved himself as one of the most consistent bot laners at the tournament (he even likened his own play to Damwon Gaming’s Ghost) and won it all alongside Nxi, who was crowned MVP of the entire event. Auto achieved third place after only having played support in a competitive setting for a few months and showcased his ability to call shotcall and set up for plays in his comms. Copy established himself as one of the hottest amateur mid lane prospects in the region and went undefeated with Team Infernal before losing in the Scouting Grounds finals against Team Ocean.

Their performance is further proof that one of the NA amateur scene’s greatest fallbacks has always been a lack of proper infrastructure for players. Riot aims to fix this with the upcoming changes to the Academy system and new LCS Proving Grounds tournament, and something tells me that future 100X classes will stand out in those events as well when the time comes.

100X IS THE COMPLETE PACKAGE

The biggest difference between 100 Next and TSM Junior is that 100X was competing all year in FACEIT’s Scouting Grounds Circuit (where they finished in second place) while giving some of their players a shot in Academy and even the LCS. For them, achieving these results within their first year is a testament to their commitment in following through on creating a hands-on program and elevating the amateur ecosystem.

100 Thieves is doubling down on a holistic approach to amateur. Their example is a demonstration that hoarding the best young players isn’t enough; it’s crucial that teams looking to invest in amateur remain focused on long-term development.

“I think for us it’s a lot about fine-tuning our program and actually delivering on a developmental promise rather than using it as a buzzword,” PapaSmithy said.

If what we’ve seen so far from the program has taught us anything, it’s that we may be hearing about them a lot over the course of next year.

Nick Ray
Nick Ray
Nick is a Richmond based writer and pianist with a passion for League of Legends and esports dating back just far enough to say he was into it before it was cool. When he's not consuming massive amounts of League content, grinding out ranked games, or walking his dog, he's quite possibly asleep.