koi: "Players like spek are why we're doing what we're doing"
Following their elimination by EG Black in a stunning best-of-three series, Jeffrey "Mnmzzz" Moore had a chance to sit down with Davenport University's Colin "koi" Thor for an extended interview. The innovative collegiate coach discussed the exhilarating match against EG, lessons learned from Davenport's run at FRAG 17, William "spek" Smith's breakthrough performance during the event, and how to properly develop players like Collin "CoJoMo" Moren, among other topics.
Tell me about your match against EG Black. How did it feel to be on stage giving such a strong performance?
I'm just really happy with how we played. Previously in the day, they were the first game that we had lined up, same exact maps, same exact vetos. I'm just really proud that after our win that we had earlier we were able to still maintain a lot of momentum. We played the best Counter-Strike that we've played in a very long time. Did we make mistakes? Of course. But you know, we made a statement, right? People didn't expect us to play as well as we did and I am incredibly proud that we were able to pull off such a feat.
So I want to ask you about that too. Did you come to this event thinking you would play teams like EG Black this close?
No, I mean realistically we didn't know groups yet, right? But we knew that because of the international talent that was arriving and everything that we knew that it was going to be a tough path for us. I remember we consciously made the decision that obviously we're here for experience and we wanted to play the LCQ at first.
But, we consciously made the decision to play the main event instead so that we could have that more top-level experience and that was exactly what happened. Nobody expected us to do well. We didn't really, we expected to learn, that was our goal. We wanted to see how we stacked up and we stacked up really well.
What did you learn? What are you taking away from this event?
So I think what it comes down to is basically that we 100% have the ability to play up to our opponents. I think that's a really good baseline to set, the fact that, yes, we are comfortable playing against a team like Carpe Diem, a team like BLVKHVND, or something in a LAN environment that, granted, may not be as professional as a Cologne or something but it still holds extra value over just being an online match. I think that's something that we can use to ground us moving forward because obviously, this is a very long-term team. The kids are here for years, as am I. At the end of the day I think that it's just a good metric to judge ourselves by, and something that we can only build up from.
What did you gather from EG in this match? Was it unforced errors from them, or was it you guys playing really well?
So it was a mixture of us playing well, I will always say that we did play well, but really it did come down to the mistakes they made. In a lot of situations. in between maps, I specifically made my players very aware that pound for pound as of right now we match them on firepower and so we shouldn't ever go into a round feeling that we're going to lose a duel or something like that. At the end of the day, this is just how modern Counter-Strike gets to a certain extent, it comes down to making the least amount fof mistakes.
You always want to be as clean as possible with your execution of protocols. In a lot of those rounds that we won, it was them making the mistake on us and we were able to capitalize off of it and frankly, you know I wasn't expecting that to happen because they do have such pedigree, but they didn't play super great and I think that that is partially due to the fact it is a newer team. stanislaw and RUSH have only been part of the team for a little bit and they had the player break and all that kind of stuff, so I'm not necessarily going to harp on them too much about it, but we did expect a little bit more of a polished team than what was shown.
Does this give you assurances that you can potentially go far in ECL?
I'm never going to say that we should win games, because if you don't ground yourself and then you lose you just look like an ass. I'm gonna still continue to treat ECL the same exact way that we were which is, our goal is to just maintain. Pushing this early into this team's inception and pushing for making playoffs or something isn't necessarily realistic. It would be nice, don't get me wrong, but I care way more about achieving results in a year or two years than I do this season.
While watching that match it goes without saying that spek is just phenomenal. Can you tell me more about spek?
So spek is one of those players that will rise to whatever we put him to. I think that he is one of the most focused players that we have. I think he's one of the most intelligent players that we have, and it really shows. On the bus ride here, for example, I actually gave him some MOUZ comms and VODs of the old team to watch and I noticed immediately in our first match that they're playing that he was using some of the exact same terms, doing the exact same plays. That instant translation and that instant learning, I think is one of the reasons why he has been such a stellar performer for us and why I think, objectively speaking, and I think the stats show too, he is our best player right now as far as the stats show.
I definitely think that he's one for the future. Players like spek are why we're doing what we're doing; we want to be able to give these players a place to develop and feel safe and secure while at the same time down the road if there are any orgs that are serious and want spek, I will gladly hand him over if he's given a full-time salary and benefits.
Another player that has developed a lot since I talked to him at FRAG 15 is CoJoMo. While spek has the better stats, I saw a lot of impact coming from CoJoMo. Can you talk to me about his development as a player since you started working with CoJoMo?
CoJoMo is a great example of how here in NA if you don't address problem and just cut players you don't actually get better. For example, CoJoMo, I would say in Advanced playoffs last season, for example, he was a little bit out of it, right? He wasn't fully head in the server, he was working a bunch over the summer, and obviously, as I said to the players Counter-Strike wasn't a major priority in these players' lives over the summer. Going into this semester, we sat everyone down in a circle and we talked about basically the good things and the bad things about each other, and in that conversation, we stressed a lot of key things like game intelligence and his rotations. We immediately noticed him improving it and I think that that is one of the most admirable quality traits that we could see.
I know, for example, on Overpass, in the game that we played against Carpe Diem, he played so much better than the one that he had played against Brazen a week or two before. It was one of those moments where I was like, yes, players can make progress if you tell them what's wrong and work with them on fixing it, and you don't just write it off as oh, he's just X, Y, and Z.
What were your takeaways this event for your D2 and D3 teams?
So D2 and D3 I think it mostly came down to letting those players experience losing. Because in a lot of ways, I think that being associated with the Davenport brand at the moment feels like a very safe rise to the top. It's an expectation that you're going to do better. But realistically it's the hard work of the players to improve it's the effort that I've put in, that the program ghas put in, that my director has put in. What this did is it helped also ground those mentalities.
We have a long way to go with D2 and D3 and I think that both of those teams and all those players, they've acknowledged that, now we just have to do that. We have a really good baseline that we can go back to the school with we can hop in the lab, we can talk about it, and we can actually start to address those issues versus just letting them pop up at FRAG.
Having all these teams here, how did it feel to have the crowd of Davenport players behind you cheering for you when you played against Evil Geniuses?
It was pretty fun, I won't lie. I definitely didn't hear them a whole lot, but I definitely felt the energy and it was great knowing that even though we were the underdog it didn't feel like it, and I think that the players liked that a lot too. I noticed that it wasn't even just our players, it was everyone, it felt like the entire fricking room was cheering us on in some capacity and so I'm just grateful that we were able to commend such a large supportive audience for that game.
To close this interview, I always have to ask you, since you're a busy guy, what's next for koi and what's next for Davenport?
Well, I can safely say that we are fully planning an ESL Impact team. We are absolutely going to do it. I'm not sure if it'll be this winter or if it'll be next fall, but we will be doing it. Then I also want to potentially put out some feelers there for a Grand Rapids FRAG-style event and then we will be hopefully bringing in a couple more international players in a little bit.
We're keeping it capped to two new incoming players, we don't want to make it seem like we're just screwing North America. But by having swicher here we've been able to really open everyone's eyes to how serious they can take the game and how dedicated they are to their craft and I think that having one or two more mixed perspectives on the game will do nothing but help.
koi and Davenport University have a busy schedule ahead of them. The team are currently competing in ESL Challenger League Season 42 and CCT North America Series #1. Their next match will be against oNe in ECL S42 at 08:00PM.