Stepping into the shoes of a franchise's superstar is never easy. It's even harder when you're a rookie in your first professional season. Counter Logic Gaming's Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes is trying to do just that during this North American League Championship Series split, as he assumes the mantle left behind by current Team SoloMid bottom lane starter Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng.
Through the first four games of the season, Hayes has had the ups and downs you'd expect from a player coming out of the minor leagues. He's accumulated 16 kills, 13 deaths and 21 assists, helping CLG open with a 2-2 record -- including a Week 1 victory over TSM. Hayes needs to cut down on his deaths, though, if he wants to be a viable starter in the upper echelon of the league.
The young AD carry says the transition to the big leagues is a nonissue. "I'm not super nervous playing on stage. It's whatever," said Hayes. "I still make mistakes on stage that I wouldn't make in scrims, but that's expected to happen. It's not too much different. There is a lot more spotlight on you, so there are a lot more people judging you."
Hayes made his first step into the CLG main roster at the IEM San Jose tournament during the offseason. After a transfer period that saw them lose their star player, Doublelift, expectations were low for a team that was coming off their greatest year in franchise history. That didn't deter Hayes and the rest of CLG from playing well in the competition, where Hayes took part in an upset of South Korea's Jin Air Green Wings in the semifinals. While CLG was stopped abruptly in the finals by a 3-0 scoreline against Worlds semifinalists Origen, Hayes showed glimpses of being a potential star -- as long as he continues to develop in the system.
"No, not really. It's just a fun rivalry," Hayes said when asked about the community's constant comparisons between him and Peng. In a sample of only four games, CLG and TSM both have a .500 record through the first two weeks. Peng and Hayes are pretty even when it comes to individual statistics, with the pair of AD's equaling each other in kills and the veteran Peng having just one less death than his replacement. The biggest difference comes in assists and damage, as Hayes is racking up more assists and playing more of a facilitator role while Peng is doing far more damage and playing as a primary carry for his squad.
Hayes added, "I think the top three teams are Immortals, TSM, and us."
Hayes spoke positively about his experience so far with his support partner and reigning LCS champion Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black. "Our synergy is pretty good. My theory is that if you take two good bottom lane players, they'll do well together. There's not much synergy, but they'll play well. But [right now] we're doing pretty good."
He also said that, even though he's an LCS rookie, he feels like he's close to getting the hang of things under the bright lights. As long as he can keep up with his mechanics and learn the little things that come with experience -- like finding the right time to move in, stepping into the right position of a team fight -- he'll be able to reach his full potential and help CLG regain the form that won them the championship in the last split.
Hayes might not be the next Doublelift, but he doesn't want to be -- he simply wants to be Stixxay, the rookie that can help CLG win back-to-back NA LCS titles.