Echo Fox has signed former Samsung White and Royal Never Give Up top laner Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok, the organization has revealed exclusively to Yahoo Esports.
The Korean top laner is a former member of the 2014 Samsung White roster that stormed the World Championship and became what many consider to be among the greatest League of Legends teams ever assembled. His ability to play a multitude of champions on a consistent level will be a boon for the team, as it has been for every team he’s played with previously.
In an interview with Yahoo Esports, Echo Fox owner Rick Fox discussed their newest member.
“You ask my why Looper? For me personally, it attaches to championship experience. Looper has won a championship as a player with Samsung. As you know, they are one of the best teams to have won a championship in League… We’re committed to world-class teams and an organization of building those. We always want to compete at the highest level and against the best, and in order to do that you have to put yourself in the position to pitch individuals like Looper.”
Looper will replace Echo Fox’s 2016 top laner Park “kfo” Jeong-hun, who is returning home to Korea after a year with the team. The young player was a rookie when he started for Echo Fox; replacing him with a veteran World Champion is a huge on-paper improvement. Looper is known as an expert Teleport top laner, someone who reads the map well and knows when to make a play. That’s something the previous iteration of Echo Fox sorely lacked.
“You don’t bring a championship experience player like Looper on, you don’t bring one of the top laners in the world, you don’t bring someone who is notorious for Teleporting like he does when you definitely needed that and missed that, and not call on his leadership. And not call for his guidance in what has been successful in the places he’s been in and the teams he’s been on.”
Looper comes to Echo Fox following a successful stint with Royal Never Give Up, who he helped propel to a 2016 World Championship bid and a 5-8th place finish. RNG was knocked out of the tournament in the quarterfinals by eventual champions SK Telecom T1.
On Echo Fox, Looper will be joining legendary European mid laner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, who has been hoping the top laner would join him.
“I am very excited about the signing of Looper,” he said. “Our coaches and management kept me very involved and communicated every day. I believe my thoughts and opinions were factored into their ultimate decisions.”
Thanks to the NA LCS rules necessitating a team be three-fifths homegrown talent, the international duo will lead a squad of North American-born players that have yet to be announced.
Last split, Echo Fox played with a slew of rookies to back up Froggen and struggled to find their footing throughout the year. With Looper’s experience on the international stage and Froggen’s status as a dependable vet, the pair should help Echo Fox outperform their 10th place finish plast split. The team narrowly avoided relegation by beating NRG Esports in the 2016 NA LCS Spring Promotion tournament.
There is some concern that Looper will struggle with communication issues once he lands in North America, as many Korean imports have before him. Fox told Yahoo Esports that the support staff he and the org have put together — as well as their experiences with kfo — have more than prepared them to bring the new player into the fold.
“His confidence, quite frankly, in trying to make the leap was really exciting for us to hear,” said Fox. “He’s excited to come to North America and join Echo Fox and the NA LCS. For us, having kfo, an individual that came from Korea, we know what it takes to assimilate an individual into a new culture, especially when it comes to the language barrier… It’s always a challenge to start a new roster and group of guys, whether they speak English or not.”
“I believe that great players end up figuring it all out, and we have great confidence that Looper has the ability to do that. And we are here to support him as an organization.”
Naturally, Looper himself is pretty pumped.
“Echo Fox proved to me that they want to win and that their organization will support our team with the resources we need to compete at a high level this year,” he said. “I am excited to come to North America LCS. I have been privileged to play for and against some of the best teams in the world. I hope to bring that experience and mindset to Echo Fox. Along with Froggen, I believe we can teach our younger players what it takes to become champions.”
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Follow Taylor Cocke on Twitter @taylorcocke.