LCS: How to Use College Players to Grow the NA Talent Pool

Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images.
Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images. /
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League of Legends College Championship. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
League of Legends College Championship. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images) /

North American LCS teams are failing to take advantage of a prime opportunity by tapping into the talent that exists at the college level.

Colleges are starting to get into esports, but there are still a lot of barriers to getting an honest-to-god functioning League of Legends team. That’s where Riot, the LCS, and the LCS teams come in.

If LCS teams were smart, they would partner with the schools or conferences to form deep partnerships that will help those colleges become true pipelines for developing native talent. Each team could have one of those major conferences as their “feeder” conference so instead of having one giant draft like currently exists at Scouting Grounds there would be an equitable way for teams to track and cultivate young talent. Rather than sifting through all the amateur players and leagues, or searching the solo queue ladder for promising talent, LCS teams would have that intel straight from the source with organizations and coaches they know and trust.

Speaking of coaches, a partnership with college teams could also be an excellent opportunity to find and develop coaches or analysts for professional teams. Right now, you have former players like Alex “Xpecial” Chu as coaches in the college ranks and there are plenty of assistant coaches and analysts who rose up through the collegiate leagues. There is talent to be had if teams are willing to put in the resources to those colleges.

Obviously, equipment would be the first logical step, and teams would be able to pass some of that cost along to their sponsors, but exposure and networking could also be a resource to add. If you’re a player in college and you get the chance to talk with Zikz or Reaperd, or sit in on a discussion with Bjergsen or Nisqy, how much would that motivate you to improve.

Teams could set up opportunities to have the best players come out for LAN tournaments where the LCS and Academy coaches could give them some pointers. It would also give the LCS players some new blood to practice against, bounce ideas off of, or just bask in their celebrity. And, down the line, one of those kids could end up being their teammate or opponent.

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In short, the opportunity is great for LCS teams and the LCS itself if they make the college leagues more robust. It gives younger players not quite ready for Academy a structure where they can get their feet wet on a well-run team, gives the LCS teams a feeder pool of young talent they’re familiar with and can develop, and it allows them to track promising young coaches or analysts.

If LCS teams put in the work now, the North American professional scene could be full of players baptized by two, three, or even four years of play in a high-level college system where they learned the fundamentals of organized play rather than just knowing the game from solo queue. That investment could, hopefully, pay dividends in the form of a World Championship in NA.