For all of his misgivings, few have caught the audience’s attention as one of the LCS’ most charismatic personalities like Evil Geniuses mid laner Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro.
First arriving into North America in early 2020 as the latest of a stream of imported players, Jiizuke was touted as a centrepiece who can contribute to a new team that returned to the league after 5 years of silence. With him on board, EG could emerge as a contender who would then vouch for their first-ever league championship.
Certainly, there have been obstacles that opposed Jiizuke in his road towards realizing that title aspiration, such as enduring a substitution in the second half of the 2020 season and falling ill to postseason heartbreak, but the Italian Stallion remained firm and calm despite the fact.
Even if he occasionally engages with his opponents in a manner considered far more aggressive than what is needed–which prompts fans to question his rationale for doing so–they simultaneously couldn’t deny his risky tenacity of being the best under his terms.
But just because Jiizuke is adored by a score of the public for his abrasive antics, that doesn’t mean he’s completely absolved of heavy scrutiny, be it good or bad. As a matter of fact, he is aware of his sporadic position created by the fans based on viewing his sometimes frustrating but strangely endearing playstyle within NA.
That’s why, after helping EG defeat Cloud9 in the opening match of Week 3 in the 2021 LCS Summer, Jiizuke responded in delicate detail about the way NA has treated him thus far in his spell with EG and what he sees for the region in the future. Such a view of his ranges from the state of the solo-queue ladder to the ongoing amateur/academy system.
The Public’s View Towards Him
It’s true that Jiizuke holds a propensity to catch the attention of fans with his performances. As evidenced by the LCS co-streamers who commentate live games including EG’s, they lose their minds upon viewing his Pro View, providing exquisite entertainment for their audience. But such a hysterical reaction doesn’t always produce generosity for the Italian Stallion.
He has been called out for his play in specific stretches where EG falters in the regular season. As a result of the disparity of opinion seen from the fans for Jiizuke, they have seen him as not one of the top mid-laners in the LCS but one of its modest players. Fittingly, the fan’s perception of Jiizuke didn’t sit well with the person in question.
Whereas Jiizuke expected to receive recognition for his performance in the 2021 spring split, which saw him sit in the upper half in most of the individual stats, fans were more inclined to chide him for his mistakes. Nothing explains Jiizuke’s “not good” relationship with NA better than the reaction to his infamous tower dive against Dignitas in Week 2 of the 2021 spring split.
“During the last split, I played really well but the overall performance and all my stats–which I never talked about; I just played the game and was rank 1 or 2 in every single server [I was in]–was clouded by a single losing game,” Jiizuke said. “We were all inting a bit. The most notable instance was my [tower] dive but everyone inted in some team fights and that was why we lost.”
Never mind the fact that other players in other regions have a similar knack to overextend in fights like Jiizuke. Since he was in NA and had a reputation of an inconsistent player, he would receive all the vitriol and none of the slack for his aggression. The sentiment would drastically change had he pulled off that Ardent Blaze on the Zoe, but the point of his volatile treatment stands.
“If I did this in Europe, LPL, or LCK, the [response] would be different because there are players like this everywhere. There is Caps and Hylissang in Europe, TheShy and Rookie in LPL–even Chovy ints sometimes. He has bad games too,” Jiizuke said. “To me in [that last split], I played good at around 80-90%. I had some bad games, but I’m human. Everyone makes mistakes. It was clouded so hard, but in my last split, my performance was worthy of Top 2 or Top 1 mid-laner. If I did that in Europe, I would be treated as such, but in NA, I was just [treated like] ‘Haha, he inted there!’ so it sucks.”
Jiizuke would like for the fans’ sentiment of him to change, but as he understands all too well, wishing for a sudden conversion is nothing more than futile. Absolving him of criticism would have to be done in Summoner’s Rift, not from his words outside of it.
On Solo-Queue and Amateur/Academy Scene
Regarding the NA solo-queue and amateur environment, Jiizuke holds a frank view of its current state. He appreciates the effort made by Riot to cultivate a NA grassroots culture that would create an influx of talent for the LCS. But as it stands now, he doesn’t think it has the capability to do so compared to the regional leagues that EU is endowed with.
To Jiizuke, part of the blame for the frail NA talent infrastructure lies in the sentiment its players collectively holds while playing in solo-queue.
“I think it’s kind of hard because you can just feel that everyone is playing mostly for fun rather than preparing for a pro career,” Jiizuke said.
To make matters worse for the people wishing a fond future for NA, Jiizuke reinforces the assumption they are all too familiar with: that they are far behind the rest of the world when it comes to identifying and refining local talent.
“There are levels to this, right? Korean solo-queue might be Rank 1, Chinese solo-queue Rank 2, EU solo-queue rank 3, and NA rank 4. Even in Europe, if it’s Rank 3, there are many people who are trying hard to go pro and you can feel it. They know about macro, their mechanics are insane, and there is so much talent as well.”
Speaking of those talented EU prospects, with the formalized infrastructure that its respective region owns, they can gauge a viable pathway towards making the LEC from the many regional leagues available and fulfil their dreams of becoming a pro player. This trajectory isn’t an assumption. It’s a realistic calculation due to the years of work done to make it possible.
For the recent champions of the LEC, MAD Lions, four of their five starters began their pro careers in a regional league. Additionally, Jiizuke himself was a product of that ecosystem.
“There are many opportunities and you see maybe 10 or 20 rookies coming to the LEC every year, but that’s not the way it is in NA just because of both the solo-queue environment and an academy system that’s not as insane,” Jiizuke said. “Compared to Europe’s [regional leagues], there is so much to watch there. The players can come from basically anywhere, whereas for NA it’s just the academy and that’s it. There’s an amateur [scene] now, but it’s still not enough. There are around 1k viewers here, 30k in the LVP (Spanish Superliga), and in the French league (LFL) there’s 100k.
“I came from LVP as well before I joined the [EU LCS] in 2018. I proved myself there, was noticed, had a chance to play in [the EU] Challenger Series, and then I qualified to the [EU LCS]. That’s how I did it.”
Although Jiizuke lamented the clear difference between the NA amateur scene and its foreign contemporaries, he believes NA could grow and build proper players in the long run. As a suggestion, he proposed a regional tournament where each of the 50 states in the US can house a league and the respective winners would compete in a separate tournament like EU Masters.
“I don’t know how many [states] there are but there could be so much potential. Each state could have their own league and they all play against each other. There’s going to be talent coming for sure,” Jiizuke said.
Besides immersing himself in that fantasy, Jiizuke is conscious of the reality that is affecting the current crop of newcomers who want to crack the LCS, that only under “special” circumstances can they do so.
“If there are opportunities, you will see new players who want to do this. There is an academy/amateur [system] and unless a special case arrives, you can’t get out of that. What we’ve seen coming out of the academy from this split is Danny, K1ng, Jenkins, and I guess the C9 Academy players from last year. That’s it. “
For all of the talk about Jiizuke’s inconsistency and antics for nearly two years, he still hopes for a better future for NA. As one of the four recently imported LCS mid-laners in the last two years, he yearns for more local talent to give fruit in the same way that he did in his early years in the LVP.
While it is true that more academy/amateur players are reaching the LCS during the early stages of the summer split, Jiizuke understands more work needs to be done to ramp up the amateur scene to another level.
Perhaps in this hopeful outlook for NA, there could be a respite in the restless dynamic concerning Jiizuke and the region whose fans continue to hurl a combination of praise and hate towards his way, but that’s something one outside of the relationship doesn’t exactly know. Rather, it’s one that only the two parties in question can discern between themselves.