Jiizuke set to join Evil Geniuses, sources say

Jiizuke will be moving to Evil Geniuses, sources say. Provided by Riot Games

Evil Geniuses will sign former Team Vitality mid laner Daniele "Jiizuke" di Mauro after failing to recruit former Griffin mid laner Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon, sources familiar with those conversations told ESPN. Chovy will reportedly stay in South Korea and sign a deal with DragonX along with 2019 teammate Choi "Doran" Hyeon-joon.

After leaving Griffin on Nov. 25, Chovy became one of the most sought-after free agents in the market, which opened on Nov. 18.

Chovy received a multimillion dollar offer from Evil Geniuses, sources said, but the 18-year-old mid laner took a lesser deal with DragonX to reunite with former Griffin coach Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho. Doran -- who also competed with Griffin throughout the 2019 season -- will also move with Chovy, according to sources. DragonX hired cvMax on Nov. 4 and extended AD carry Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu on Nov. 17.

Evil Geniuses internally discussed adding a foreign top laner -- with particular interest in former SK Telecom T1 top laner Kim "Khan" Dong-ha, among others -- and acquiring a North American mid laner, such as Tanner "Damonte" Damonte or Eugene "Pobelter" Park, sources said. Khan ultimately chose to move to China rather than North America and sign with reigning world champions FunPlus Phoenix, as reported by ESPN. Representatives from Evil Geniuses declined to comment.

The Jiizuke signing rounds out an Evil Geniuses organization that came into the League of Legends Championship Series without a single player under contract. Evil Geniuses started its offseason by facilitating a multimillion dollar deal with Cloud9 to acquire four players: jungler Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen, support Tristan "Zeyzal" Stidam, top laner Colin "Kumo" Zhao and AD carry Matthew "Deftly" Chen. The team also reached a buyout agreement with 100 Thieves for former world champion AD carry Bae "Bang" Jun-sik.

The starting lineup for Evil Geniuses for the League Championship Series will consist of Kumo, Svenskeren, Jiizuke, Bang and Zeyzal.

Evil Geniuses acquired the slot previously owned by Echo Fox for $33 million in September, marking a return to League of Legends for the organization, which last competed in the LCS in September 2014.

Chicago-based investment firm PEAK6 acquired majority stake in Evil Geniuses in May and appointed one of its associates, Nicole LaPointe Jameson, as the brand's top executive. Once the most popular esports brand in North America, Evil Geniuses has been absent from the industry's biggest games -- other than Dota 2 -- since Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch divulged of its shares in the team in December 2016. Twitch first acquired Evil Geniuses and Alliance as a part of a deal to takeover GoodGame Agency in December 2014.

CvMax remains the subject of an ongoing investigation by Riot Games' South Korean branch and the Korean e-Sports Association (KeSPA). Those two organizations initially banned the former Griffin coach indefinitely on Nov. 20, alleging that he both physically and verbally abused former players. That allegation was later echoed by three players, Choi "Sword" Sung-won, Lee "Tarzan" Seung-yong and Shin "Rather" Hyeong-seop, and Griffin coach Byun "Chaos" Young-sub in an interview with Inven Global released after Riot and KeSPA's decision.

Riot and KeSPA postponed their ban on cvMax after both public outcry and criticism from South Korean National Assembly member Ha Tae-kyung. Riot said it would have a third party again investigate the situation, which first arose when cvMax alleged on an October livestream that then-Griffin director Cho Gyu-nam mishandled the transfer of and threatened substitute jungler Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok.