jL on w0nderful: "He has all the talent and will to become a great player"
jL spoke at length about what it was like for him to join NAVI, w0nderful's addition to the team, and their goals for the future on HLTV Confirmed.
After trying and failing to get the Lithuanian on the show previously, the HLTV Confirmed crew were finally graced by the presence of Justinas "jL" Lekavicius on the latest episode of the podcast, and the 24-year-old was full of carefully considered and in-depth insight.
The podcast tackled a range of topics such as jL's come-up in Counter-Strike, his time with MAD Lions and Apeks, and the state of the professional scene in the early days of CS2, but the most relevant discussion points began with talk of his arrival in Natus Vincere.
One subject discussed was the rumour that circulated at the time of a ludicrous figure that was paid to cover jL's buyout, a reported $450k, which the player was quick to dismiss, pointing to the time left on his contract.
"What organization would pay $450,000 for 20 days left on a contract?" jL asked incredulously. "That’s like $20,000 per day. Worth more than s1mple at this point.”
He also spoke briefly on what it was like for him exploring offers after Apeks' immense overperformance at the BLAST Paris Major, the tournament that put the team and jL specifically on the radars of tier one squads.
"I had the most offers out of the team, by far," the 24-year-old began. "I’m like ‘wow, that’s really good, maybe they are not just looking at the Major performance.'
"We shared where we got offers from and when I said NAVI, they were like ‘okay, he’s leaving.' We tried to play tournaments after that, but people were sure I was leaving for NAVI even though the contract was not signed yet, we had checked out. It’s a no-brainer, you can’t get mad at me for leaving for NAVI."
Another topic of discussion was what stood out to jL in terms of what he learned in his first days in Natus Vincere, and the rifler was quick to point out a way in which coach Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy had helped elevate his understanding of the game.
"Every single nade and util you throw, there’s a reason for it, and I never knew that," jL laughed. "I mean okay, you can flash here and molly there, but every single piece of util gives information to the enemy team, and if the enemy team is good at reading the util, they might have an understanding of what you are doing on the map.
"It was quite tough to re-learn the utility usage because I thought I was not bad at it, but I was terrible. It was giving up a lot of information to the enemy team, and a team like NAVI was easily picking up the tells."
Conversation inevitably turned to the recent departure of CS:GO's greatest player, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, from Natus Vincere. jL professed some of the things that the Ukrainian superstar had taught him in the short time they played together.
"I learned a lot of things. One of them is just win, I wanted to win more, I have this bigger fire in me to win. I didn’t like losing, neither does s1mple, and I was like ‘maybe I should really hate losing, so I can work more and win more.’"
He also described how s1mple taught him to develop his own style as a player. "Play your game, find what works best for you. Don’t try to fit a certain style, be your style and make sure it’s good."
jL then took to the task of comparing s1mple's replacement, Ihor "w0nderful" Zhdanov, to the outgoing superstar, although he confessed he was hopeful that w0nderful would not himself focus on such comparisons.
"To fill the shoes of the best player in the world is not an easy task, and I hope he is not taking this into a lot of consideration because it can take a toll on you for sure." jL opined. "After our first official game, if he does not drop a 1.5 rating you know it’s going to be bad for him. If he doesn’t take that into consideration, I think he can be a great AWPer. I like what he is doing, but of course he needs some experience."
"I think he is so far from s1mple, not as in skill-wise, but they are just so far apart personality-wise," jL began. "It’s a different player, even though he has s1mple’s sensitivity and video settings and all that stuff, he does not play like s1mple, s1mple is a phenomenon you cannot really repeat. He understands the game in his own way, you cannot copy that, this is not the book. w0nderful also understands the game in his own way, and I think the best player should have that understanding."
The Lithuanian concluded with a confident statement regarding w0nderful: "I think he has all the talent and all the will to overcome all the obstacles and become a great player."
"I think we’re not concerned about results, we’re concerned about improving." jL stated. "How fast we improve will determine how good the results we will show are.
"I think w0nderful is doing pretty well in the team, we can work around him and he can work with us, and if we progress at the same speed as we are now, we could be looking at top-four finishes pretty fast."