Though Team Liquid got off to a shaky start in the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split, their top laner Sam "Lourlo" Jackson is confident his team and his new coach Jang "Cain" Nu-ri can turn things around.
Lourlo sat down with theScore esports' Josh Bury to talk about the top lane meta, Piglet's controversial interview with Inven and how Doublelift helped him to improve when he was with the team.
Regarding the Summer Split specifically, and you as a player, I have a few questions. I read that you would play AD carry if you weren’t a top laner. And now you’re in this space where it’s not only tanks top, we saw you play Fiora last week. So how are you enjoying the possibility of maybe playing some more top lane carries and really being able to show off more of that individual skill that might be harder to see on tank champions?
Honestly, I really love playing carries. It’s obviously more fun to do more damage. But in terms of competition, I don’t care what I play, I just care about the result. So if I’m playing a carry and it’s getting us wins, I’m really happy for the team. But my own personal spotlight doesn’t matter for me, as long as we’re winning. So carries are obviously fun to play, because you can kind of show off, but it’s whatever to me. As long as we’re winning, that’s all I really care about.
Speaking of showing off a little, we saw you play Fiora and end up on the receiving end of a big Tempered Fate from Aphromoo. I noticed you immuned the Tempered Fate. We were talking about the play at the office: do you stand by your decision to do that, or would you have played it differently?
I knew Shen had Flash there, so I knew there was no chance of me killing him, I’m pretty sure. He might have flashed already, I’m not quite certain. But I don’t think I could have killed him, and I thought if I W’d the Bard ult I could just create enough distance to get away, and that was my goal after I couldn’t kill the Shen, after I saw it. So that was my thought process.
I’m not sure if he had Flash or not, he might have had Flash, and it probably wouldn’t have been possible if he had Flash. If not, I probably could have 1-for-1’d, and it could have been a good option as well, but who knows.
What was your reaction when you found out that this team was going to field the same roster for Summer Split?
I really had high hopes. Once [coach Jang “Cain” Nu-ri] showed his strengths and leadership during relegations and, by the end of the split, I had high hopes for him to be able to meld this roster into something better. And I think there’s still room for that, and I think there’s just a lot of feeling out we have to do, and just understanding what mid’s better right now, what we can do with the five that we have, and what our strengths are. I think we’re still just trying to find that. And I think Cain will lead us in the right direction with time.
I have to ask: we went into the season, and it’s Week 1 and Goldenglue has already been subbed out for a series. Is this affecting morale? My feeling is, there could already be that fear that Summer will end up like the last split, like we’ve done this already, and now it could happen again.
I think it’s easy to get that first impression or first thought, because it’s definitely happened already. But I think for me, and for the other five players, I don’t think we’re in that mindset or that we want to be. Throughout the season, I think we just want to do as much as we can with the players we have and the staff we have, and just try to gain and get results. Because if you have that mindset … you have a whole season to play, if you have that mindset from the start, why are you even here?
So I’m just making sure that all five of us keep trying really hard, and we have really good players, and we can definitely make it work, it just depends on how fast we can meld as five.
How do you view your personal role on this team? I haven’t seen much criticism of your effort, but this team hasn’t done as well as some people think it could in 2017. How do you view your particular piece of the greater Team Liquid puzzle?
I think my work ethic among the five is probably really high, next to Piglet right now. I think me and him work super hard on this team, and I work my ass off. I have a wrist injury right now. I have carpal tunnel in both my hands, so it’s kind of hard for me to play as much solo queue as I want. But I’m definitely working extremely hard, and I pretty much put all of my life into this, in a sense. Because I came out here at 17, I dropped out of my senior year of high school, and I fully committed.
I’m just making sure that the effort I’m putting in will lead to something in the future. And I hope, as an individual, that I keep growing. Because even if this split or season doesn’t work, I can still show results in the future.
I want to ask about Piglet actually, because there was an interview that I’m sure you’ve heard about with Inven, where he talked about how frustrated he was with the team situation. Is that something that you guys talked about, and did anybody take that personally? I think for the community it seemed quite scandalous to have him say some of the things he said about the team.
Honestly, everyone knows that Piglet is a person that speaks from the heart, if you’ve been around him for a while. Honestly for me, I didn’t expect anything different. I think it’s just him speaking his mind, and I think that’s a good thing because it probably opens that transparency to the community, but also to his teammates, because sometimes it’s hard for him to speak up. I think even him doing an interview gave a different opinion for not only us, but also the community. I think it was good, I don’t think anyone really has to be worried about that.
You mentioned that you have an injury — what are you doing to manage that carpal tunnel, do you guys have a physical therapist on staff? What are you personally doing to make sure you don’t make that worse?
Right now… I was dealing with some insurance problems, just trying to situate that. But I’ve been going to a physical therapist and I’ve been doing wrist exercises I’ve been looking up. I’ve been talking to Bjerg and Hai, because they’ve been through similar wrist injuries as well. They told me a few tips, like getting wrist braces to sleep, or having a grip strength thing.
It’s just a little bit of things they gave me in terms of advice that I’m going to take, and hopefully fix my wrist in time.
The franchising announcement was an exciting moment for the community last week — do you see it as a mostly positive thing for players? Is there anything you wished you’d seen in the announcement?
I think franchising is just going to be good as a whole. It’s definitely just positive. If I think about franchising, I’m just really excited, because I think it gives more job security to players, is beneficial to the ecosystem… it just raises the bar for the growth of the LCS, and I think that’s really exciting. And overall, it’s just going to drive more attention, drive more … pretty much everything, it’s just going to grow the scene. Because I still think it’s the starting point for LCS in terms of how big it can actually get.
In Spring Split, you guys were trying to avoid relegation and Doublelift was brought in. What was it like playing with him, and did you pick anything up from him? He has that reputation of being a pretty verbal guy, pretty enthusiastic: what was that like?
Peter was a really good addition to the team for the time that he was on the team. He definitely … he gave us more insight on how to play the game, he definitely helped with our vision control, and just gave us more information as a team. And also he helped me individually by just showing me leadership skills that I didn’t have in the past. Because I’ve been trying to just grow myself as an individual and just help my communication in the team as a whole, and just making sure I say the right things at the right time.
And also, the biggest thing I learned from him, is probably how to discuss post-game. Because he’s really good in post-game. And he just knows how to really grab attention, and pinpoint the right things. So I learned a lot from him in post-game as well.
Can you elaborate a little bit on that? I think the post-game thing is something that a lot of fans don’t really understand. If you’re in a solo queue game and you go to the lobby, people have words for each other but that’s not really a healthy post-game environment, right? So what is it about what Doublelift brought to that environment that made it good for the team? What are some of the things he did?
He’s always straight to the point. There are a lot of teams that avoid issues, and there’s a lot of teams that don’t even know what to say. But he is really experienced, he’s played for countless years. After a game he knows exactly what he wants to talk about when he goes in post-game. He brings it up immediately. He calls out people when they need to be called out. He just makes sure the right things are being said at the right time, and … people respect him a lot. So it’s easy for him to get his point across, and it’s a really easy discussion after that.
He contributes a lot because of the experience that he has already attained.
You mentioned earlier that you were focused on developing yourself as a player. How do you focus on personal improvement in-game when the situation is maybe not optimal? We saw role swaps, we’ve seen roster changes, we’ve already seen a substitution for TL. How do you focus on improving when things are constantly changing and Liquid is sustaining criticism from fans?
There’s definitely a lot of criticism, it’s hard for me to take that in. But honestly I try to avoid it because if I just dwell on it too much, it’s going to make my situation worse. I just try to kind of focus on myself. Honestly, even when role swaps happen, you can still improve as a player. It doesn’t matter if your roster is getting switched around, you have personal goals to improve on, you have personal mistakes that you’re messing up on in-game. You just focus on those.
If you’re TPing in the wrong spot, because I play top lane, if you’re moving to the wrong spot, losing lane matchups, if you want to learn more champions … there’s a lot of things that you can always improve on throughout the season that, even if the roster is going up and down, you can still improve as a player.
You mentioned avoiding criticism, but I noticed on Twitter, there was a fair amount of outreach just trying to support you, I think, after Week 1. You actually thanked people for that. How valuable is that support, I guess, to hear people come out and say, “Don’t worry, you’ve got them next week?”
It’s honestly really refreshing. It motivates me even more to keep improving, because it’s really awesome to know that there’s actual fans that really, really care about the players and they’re not just there if you’re winning; they’re there even if you’re losing.
It really means a lot for people who even take time out of their day even to send a message on Twitter, private message me, even some of my friends that I haven’t talked to in a while message me. So it’s really awesome that people come up to me like that and give me support when they obviously know I’m struggling, or the team is struggling.
What do you think has improved the most about your play over the past year?
I think I’m not as hesitant as I was before. I’m really confident in my own play now, I think I can pretty much do anything I put my mind to, and just work on it really hard. And I think in the past I had a lot of confidence issues, and I think now I’m insanely confident, even when I’m on stage I’m not as nervous. It’s very rarely that I’m actually nervous, playing even the biggest matches. So I think confidence is the biggest factor from the past to now.
I have to say that I find that answer pretty remarkable given that the environment you’ve been in for the past year has not always been the most stable. I’m sure the organization is doing what they can to help you, but it’s been an environment that’s been in flux. For you to say that confidence is the thing that grew the most… how did you build that?
I think the biggest thing is, just seeing my personal play improve in terms of just everything: mechanics, game knowledge. And also just me winning lane matchups and doing more for my team just led to a slow growth of confidence.
And also just me, as a person, developing. I think I’ve developed so much in the past two years, and I’ve really gotten to experience the real-life aspect. Before this I was just a 17-year old kid chilling at home, playing video games for 15 hours a day. But I actually got to get out into the real world, experience everything, hang out with a lot of different people that I didn’t expect to hang out with. I grew up as a person, I think it’s another big factor in getting that confidence and moving forward.
Over your whole career in LoL, what’s been your favorite moment?
Honestly I think it was the first split in 2016, when we played Game 5 versus CLG. Even though we lost, I haven’t felt that much emotion in a game. It was so fun, because it was my rookie split, and we were one game away from finals. It was a pretty crazy experience for me, I’ll probably never forget that day. We were so close to winning that game, too. It’s just like a really big highlight of my career.
Do you have anything else you want to say or any shoutouts you want to give?
Thanks for all the support. I know there’s definitely Team Liquid fans out there that are still constantly supporting me and just the organization as a whole. And I just really want to thank you guys, because I wouldn’t be doing this, or have the drive to this, if it wasn’t for you. A really big thanks, I appreciate all the people that support Team Liquid and me.
Josh “Gauntlet” Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.
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