Despite a difficult road to playoffs, jL has kept the positivity up

jL: "The welcomeness of NA is something to experience"

jL has greatly appreciated the warm reception he's received at FRAG.

Ahead of their match on day two of Fragadelphia 17, Jeffrey "Mnmzzz" Moore had a chance to talk to Apeks' Lithuanian newcomer Justinas "jL" Lekavicius. The young star talked about his time on MAD Lions, joining the international Apeks roster, and the warm reception he's received in NA so far, among other topics. Note that this interview was recorded ahead of Apeks' qualification into the main event.

The first team where people might have heard about you was in selectah, where you briefly played with Edward, Disco Doplan, oscar as well. How did that team form with all those legendary players? What was it like playing with them from a young age?

I loved the experience. They had a lot to bring to the team, but I don’t think that team had enough motivation to win games or keep playing. It was fun to play with them, but it wasn’t going to last long.

So it was not a very serious project?

It was a long-term project, at least in my eyes. I was very keen to play, I was motivated, but the older guys, the more experienced guys didn’t seem like they wanted to.

That was your first international team and it seemed to set a stage for the teams you were looking to join in the future. Your next big project was the MAD Lions squad. Was it always your goal to become an international player or did you intend to stay in the Lithuanian or Baltic scene?

Actually, there is no scene in Lithuania. We of course have players, we have upcoming talents, but nothing more than that. I was always thinking about an international team, there was no way we were building a Lithuanian one. I always saw myself as a well-spoken guy in terms of English. I didn't see it as a problem.

That leads you into joining MAD Lions, that project was a very interesting mix of more established players like MICHU, and then you had kuben as a coach later down the road. How did you come into that project as one of the less experienced players?

I have a good relationship with a lot of the older people in the scene, the talent scouts and people like that, so they recommended me to MAD Lions. It took some interviews. Originally it was going to be a five-man lineup, but they changed it for me, just for me, because they weren’t looking for an AWPer and I considered myself an AWPer back then. I scored really well in the psychology test. They really liked me as a guy and decided on a six-man roster and for me to become a rifler. I took that as a challenge upon myself. It worked out well at the start, a struggled at first, of course, but during the later days of MAD Lions, I was fragging and getting used to the rifle.

We saw a lot of roster changes while you were on MAD Lions for a year, do you think there was any big issue that caused MAD Lions to never hit its stride despite having a lot of talented players like sdy or Woro2k?

I think it was all good in the team. We had staff and coaches that were all hardworking, they all wanted the best for us, but the team just didn’t click and I think that was the biggest problem. We had different views of the game and we just couldn’t get the ball rolling.

After MAD Lions benched and transfer-listed the squad, you ended up playing together as ex-MAD Lions. In somewhat of a surprising fashion, the ex-MAD Lions project ended up being quite successful, winning REPUBLEAGUE Season 3. After that was there any thoughts of sticking together and looking for an org?

Nah. We had some issues between us, and for the tournament, of course we ignored it. We knew we were all great players, we respected each other, but we had disagreements towards the game, and we just decided let's play what we can play, let's do whatever, and let’s do our best, no arguing, no nothing, just play for the win. That’s what we did, we won every single game. And then we went our separate ways.

What can you tell me about your relationship with kuben as you've worked with him in your past three teams?

Actually, the past like 4-5 months, that was our bonding time together. For the first year we didn't quite get along as well. He was very straightforward with his game, of course he's very versatile when it comes to the game, but I took all his advice personally. Once I didn't take things personally, I understand that he only wants the best for me. Since then, our relationship has been growing, like I can consider him my friend, not just my coach.

Apeks has slowly transitioned to be one in a new wave of international rosters. Do you see this trend of international rosters as the future of European Counter-Strike?

I think it's the way right now. National lineups are always going to have the edge communication-wise and culture-wise. I think the biggest difference with international teams is that they have a lot of cultural differences and that leads to problems outside of the game. Other than that, I think it's very valuable for organizations to build international lineups. For example, international players have a huge following. For a five-man national team, they wouldn't have the same following because they're not really interacting on socials.

Your team has a very wide range of nationalities, a very wide range of ages, experience levels. Do you have any wisdom about how you can keep rosters like this together and what the key is to having everyone get along?

I’d the number one key is to get along in-game. We can have our differences outside the game, but as long as you put in the work and don't argue in the game, you’re going to be just fine. Of course, we have to bond with the team, we have to do activities together, but that's the most important thing. Everyone will have differences, and you just have to accept that not everyone is exactly the same as you.

How have the team and you yourself been enjoying Fragadelphia so far as your first LAN together

Actually, it's been really fun. I'm surprised by the NA players and teams. They are very energetic. Being here, there are like 100 people playing, and every single twenty seconds we hear someone scream because they won a round. I like that about Fragadelphia a lot. It’s been nice meeting people; they’re all so kind. In EU, people are not as nice, for sure. You are way more easy-going and I like it here a lot.

Have you had an experience where people recognize the jersey or just come up and ask you about what you’re doing here?

I haven’t had that experience yet, but I have met a lot of people, maybe some fans or people I know. It's been super fun. I took pictures with like five people, which I've never had in my life, and it's super fun. Honestly, the welcomeness of NA is something to experience.

What's the local LAN environment like in Lithuania and how does it compare to FRAG?

There was GameOn and InfoShow, but those haven’t happened for some time. Maybe it did happen but it’s not as big as other places. Our scene is not really alive. We don't have the fire in us to make these events. We recently had a LAN, Amber Clutch, they did a really good job. They’re trying to lift the spirits of Lithuanian CS. They want to show people that it can actually be something you can do. People in Lithuania are very old-minded, so to say, but they’ve been doing a really good job.

You had a bit of a bump on the road with your game against BIG Academy...

A bump?!

Ok well a major bump I would say, but there's a chance you’ll meet them again. With that in mind, you guys came come in with more preparation potentially. A lot of people are expecting Apeks to take this event. How do you feel about your chances of moving into the main event?

Honestly, losing to BIG didn't change much. We're still confident, we're still going to go in there to win, to dominate, but I don't think the game plan was a problem for us. We just weren't there. We weren’t there for each other, we weren’t there for the team, and we weren’t there for ourselves. That’s what happens when you do simple things like that, you just lose. It doesn't matter how good of a game plan you have. If you are not there 100%, there’s a huge chance you’re gonna lose.

The day after this interview, Apeks survived an intense double-header against Homeless to make their way into playoffs. They are currently squaring off against ATK to try and make their way into the semi-finals.

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