Setting up a Pick: The Esports Stepping Stone for College Students
The world of collegiate esports is similar, if not, identical to the world of traditional collegiate sports. While the tools to attack, defend, outplay, and win may not be the same, the heart and effort that propels each player to weather any loss and realize every victory comes from the same universal place that every sport draws from, electronic or not. I was fortunate enough to catch UCI’s League of Legend talented midlaner, Jeffery “Descraton” Du, and mastermind coach, James “Coachman” Bates, to relive their victory in the 2018 NA College League of Legends Championship and experience they had participating in the International College Cup in China.
Descraton is currently in his third year of Computer Engineering with a near-flawless GPA. He is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, midlaners in collegiate League of Legends and known for his carry midlaners, such as Zoe, which he displayed in the finals of the national championship. He can be seen usually in his favorite seat at the UCI Esports Arena grinding solo queue games against such legendary pros such as TSM’s Bjergsen.
Coachman is currently pursuing an undergrad degree in Informatics and is a transfer student from community college. Coachman has a background in many competitive games, not just League of Legends. An avid player of Dota, both the original and the sequel, and LoL, he has worked with such great teams such as Fnatic, and his knowledge of LoL is one of the team’s greatest weapons. When not researching the next meta strats, he can be seen sometimes playing a game of MTG Arena.
The following is an interview done by Anthony “The Last Mehican” Ortega, undergraduate student and shoutcaster for UCI Esports.
Congratulations again on winning the 2018 North American College League of Legends Championship! I’d like to first start out by asking you two how did you prepare for the national and then international competition?
Coachman: [P]ractice and preparation would honestly be the best answer I can give you. We had to win 11 matches, so we had a lot of competitive preparation, we researched the meta. That’s mostly what it came down to; preparation equals practice.
Descraton: I guess for nationals, another thing that we needed to take care of was our schoolwork as well, since we had to compete in the [national] championships as well, and since we were missing a week of school to compete we had to make sure that we had enough time to get our studies in while preparing to play as well.
It seems like a lot of hard work went into prepping for these championships. Speaking of hard work, both of you also worked incredibly hard to get here, where you are today. Could you tell me some details on what contributed or what lead you here to being part of the UCI LoL Collegiate team?
Descraton: I always liked playing games growing up as a kid and, ...when I was applying for colleges, I saw that UCI had a scholarship program for League of Legends and I was like, I love playing League and I can get a scholarship and also can get a good degree as well, so that ultimately led me here.
Coachman: Ultimately, my path lead me into collegiate just because that is what I believe it is a more healthy place for people to compete. I have a few objections on how people in the challenger scene are treated. So yea, UCI was hiring a head coach, and I applied for it, I didn’t actually get it, but eventually [I did] because turnover, so here we are.
Have you guys thought about what you will be doing after graduating from UCI?
Descraton: Currently, I’m considering the option of going pro. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now and, given the opportunity, I would take it and at least experience the professional scene at least once. After that, I’m thinking of either working in the field of esports or work as a game developer, in some way or the other.
Coachman: My answer is fairly similar. My current intention isn’t to necessarily continue working in the coaching side of esports after I graduate; that is subject to change based on how it goes down, but I am interested in staying in the esports community or, also specifically in the game industry, would love to work for some more competitive games in their live design teams balancing these sort of things. Otherwise, indie game design.
There are a few differences when it comes to competing on the national and international stage, was your approach different from the other when tackling the two tournaments?
Descraton: I think our approach was fairly similar for both tournaments. We scrimmed weekly to prepare for the games, and also, we were researching our opponents and trying to do mock drafts to understand what our game plan was versus the teams.
That being said, it was a lot harder to do that for the international tournament because it was really hard to find information on a lot of the players. Unfortunately for us, it was not true (Coachman holds back a laugh) for the other way around because every [game we played] was broadcasted, and then our IGN’s are the same as our solo queue IGN’s basically, so all the other teams at the international tournament could find our VOD’s, could find the champions that we played and everything. I think that kind of made it unfair for us.
So, you had a little more difficulty than you expected, huh?
Descraton: For sure, yea.
Coach: The thing we did similarly was that we did practice, and we did do our best to scout out our opposing teams. I think the context surrounding the two events were a lot different though. Like, the collegiate championship took place at the end of our school year, and we were all still in school. We worked our hardest to get in as much practice as we could, but ultimately, we couldn’t do it as much and more importantly, we were all located at the same location.
It also helped that, in the lead up to the collegiate championship, we were also able to scrim who our opponents would be in the collegiate championship. We knew that all we had to worry about were the weaker teams in our own group and ultimately, we did a pretty good job at sweeping that up.
The international tournament was very different, however, in that not only were not all still in Irvine because it was summer everybody had to go out in their different ways which made practice a lot more difficult. We also came in on the tournament on a low because of our practice schedule, we did not feel like we were at our peak like the same way we were going into the collegiate championship. Everybody kind of felt like we had slumped. Then, we also went having NO clue how we measure up to any of our opponents, and we had, like, two days to figure it out in a crowded net bar.
The problem with that is that it made our methodology somewhat reactive. We knew, whenever we were planning against a team, that they wanted to do this and therefore, we wanted to do this. In China, we learned very quickly that it would be more important in the future to be able to say, “we want to do this, and we need to look out for this thing they’re doing.” It seems very similar, but it’s subtly different, and if you watch what was going on in China, it’s really apparent, because it requires you to really have you have a good understanding of what your opponent is going to do in the first place in order to play reactively to that. We really struggled because of that particular problem.
So, the misinformation put you guys at a disadvantage and that was unfortunate, wasn’t it?
Coachman: You can argue it’s a combination of both the information and that we relied so heavily on that beforehand. Notably, one of the reasons why our win in the actual finals looked so dominant is that we knew the team we were playing against so well that they never looked like they had a chance to play against us. We just got used to that. We have a really small environment here in the North American Collegiate scene,, and we [have] learned that we were a big fish, but our pond wasn’t really that big. When we got thrown into the international pond and saw all the other regions big fishes, we realized we were going to need to step it up next year if we were going to make an impact.
Personally, how was your time in China during the International College Cup?
Descraton: [C]ompeting was an enjoyable experience, even though we didn’t make it as far as I would’ve liked. Meeting the other teams was really cool; we were able to make friends with Australia and Taiwan. Just being able to spend time together with the team in another country was also a really cool experience.
Thanks so much for your time, I just have one more question before you guys go. For all those people aspiring to be a part of Collegiate LoL or any collegiate esports, what advice do you have for them.
Descraton: Honestly, I think if you are an aspiring high school student, or a high school student aspiring to compete in League of Legends or any other professional game or esports or whatever, be determined about it. If you want to do it, commit to it and put in the effort, put in the time. Believe in yourself. There are opportunities out there; you just need to look for them yourself and not just sit around and let it come to you.
Coachman: the biggest thing, I would say – it echoes a lot of [Descraton’s] sentiment – is that you really will need to apply yourself but that it’s also worth it. Being on a team is one of the best experiences you can have in high school and college because it really sets you up for success in your professional lives, even if it’s a team for a video game. You’re not going to get [as much] out of League of Legends or any other esport unless you put everything into it, much like other sports.
Thanks again, guys, so much for your time, and congrats once again for winning the 2018 Collegiate LoL National Championship. We hope to see you guys at nationals and advance to the international stage to win next year’s International College Cup.
You’re not going to get [as much] out of League of Legends or any other esport unless you put everything into it, much like other sports.
From the experiences of Descraton and Coachman, collegiate is truly an incredible step for esports and its players, albeit with a few developmental hiccups along the way. As more and more of the younger generation pick up a keyboard, controller, mouse, or phone capable of playing games, a potential new gladiator of the electronic medium is created just as if another potential athlete of traditional sports picks up a baseball bat, lacrosse stick, or the proverbial pigskin. Descraton and Coachman are sure to go far in their esports and academic careers, possibly being scouted by professional teams for their talents. Along the way, they’ll inspire countless youth to pick up a mouse and smash q-w-e-r (not necessarily in that order) in the hopes that their dedication pays off in a national championship. As esports continues to grow in popularity and acclaim, hopefully, the only thing that separates esports and sports in the minds of millions will be a simple vowel.
About the Author
Anthony "The Last Mehican" Ortega is a current fourth-year Business Economics undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine and transferred there after attending El Camino Community College. He is an aspiring shoutcaster for UCI Esports and most known for his energetic League of Legends Play-by-Play, but has been known to cast Overwatch, hosts desks for games and events, and write articles about esports. After finishing undergrad, Anthony plans on pursuing a Master's in Economics or in Finance, possibly pursuing it at UCI to also extend his casting career. His dreams are ultimately to shoutcast for the NA LCS alongside other great shoutcasters but is hoping to work in the gaming industry in some way or another.