Next in the Inside the CEC series, The Game Haus spoke with the coaching staff of Rutgers University’s Overwatch team, Aziz “LLamuH” Rahman and Kenny “Beaniez” Small. Both LLamuH and Beaniez are graduates of Rutgers and came back this year to help lead the team to the finals at the Collegiate Esports Championship (CEC) in Houston, TX. They took care of some unfinished business this year, but for them, the journey has only just begun for Rutgers Esports.
Would you mind introducing yourself for those who may not already know you?
LLamuH: Hello, my name is Aziz “LLamuH” Rahmen and I’m the coach for the Rutgers Overwatch team. I was also part of the Rutgers team since Spring 2016 while I was still in college, but when I graduated I transitioned to a coaching role.
Beaniez: My name is Kenny Small, if you see me online I go by Beaniez, and I love video games.
What was your favorite part of the event?
LLamuH: My favorite part of the event was just casually hanging out with my team and having the opportunity to spend so much time together as friends. That doesn’t happen during the semester because our interactions with each other are mainly through practice and scrims.
Beaniez: My favorite part of the event was being able to interact with all the players that we’ve known only by an IGN. Putting names to faces and seeing so much talent brought together into one location was such an awesome experience. Getting the chance to enjoy it along with my team was the icing on the cake.
On the flip side, what was the biggest challenge or what pushed you the most?
LLamuH: Our biggest challenge was adjusting to the different playstyles of all the teams we’ve faced thus far. A lot of the teams we had to play have been bad matchups for us just because of our playstyles.
Beaniez: The biggest challenge for us was preparing for Utah. We knew they were going to be a tall task and their coach, Snap, is an incredible coach, so we knew we had to come in prepared for everything they threw at us. Unfortunately, during the match itself, we weren’t able to get the job done as we had prepared to.
What went into prepping the Rutgers squad for this event? Did you change your coaching philosophy at all going in?
LLamuH: Preparing for this event was very difficult. Our opponent had a very unique playstyle that no other team really replicates. Most of the preparation was through theory-crafting without actually implementing our strategies.
Beaniez: Going into the event, we maintained a similar philosophy to the rest of the year. It was just difficult to find scrims against teams that played similarly to what we were expecting Utah to play. That meant a lot of the work that coach LLamuH had to put in was conceptual. On top of that, the team needed to be prepared to have everything AND the kitchen sink thrown at them.
What was it like playing and coaching in front of a crowd and right next to your opposing team?
LLamuH: Playing and coaching in front of a crowd and on stage is the best part of LAN tournaments. We would all much prefer to play our matches at LAN as much as possible because of how enjoyable it is. This is, essentially, what we all play for. For the opportunity to come and play at LAN. Practice can get tough and annoying but we all have the end goal of making it to the big stage and that is what ultimately pushes us in order to become better players and to win.
Beaniez: It was thrilling seeing the stage that was put together and the production value ESPN put into the event — I was blown away. I think it made everyone feel a strong sense of pride about what they had achieved by getting to LAN and getting to put Rutgers Overwatch on the map to a larger audience. It’s also a totally different experience seeing your opponents just 20 feet across the stage from you, instead of just names on a screen. I think it adds some extra fire to wanting to perform well.
What has this experience done to bond your team? What does it mean for you and for Rutgers to have made it to the final 8?
LLamuH: This experience has made us all a lot closer. They say when you travel with someone, you really get to know them, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to travel with this team. They are all much more than teammates to me and this experience has made us all closer. As I said, my favorite memories were us just casually hanging out as friends. Making it to the top 8 is another achievement but it doesn’t quite sit well with us. I believe if we were able to prepare better for the playstyle that Utah has, we would have made it into the grand finals. But that’s for next year.
Beaniez: This whole experience brought us together in a whole new way. We’ve traveled together before to events but they’ve always had the underlying tone of competing. After we were eliminated and we were in Houston for a few more days, it gave us the chance to bond as a group of friends and create some memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life. The season was over, the semester is almost over, so just enjoy the weekend with each other as much as we can before it ends.
As for making the top 8, it means everything to us. Me and LLamuH are both alumni who graduated in Spring 2018 so we were doing this for no payment and with no university support. We came back because we both felt we had unfinished business and wanted to get this team to the LAN we missed out on last year. Getting to LAN this year is incredibly validating on the choices we made. As for the team, it showed all the people who doubted their skill as a unit that they are one of the best teams in all of Collegiate Overwatch.
What does this event mean for collegiate Overwatch, and esports in general, moving forward?
LLamuH: I think this event is a big step forward for collegiate Overwatch. Hopefully, this event shows people that esports is a legitimate scene and is here to stay. Hopefully, Rutgers will offer varsity programs to our collegiate Esports teams in the future.
Beaniez: This event is everything for collegiate esports. Having a name like ESPN support the scene and give it a massive platform is such a huge milestone for everyone going forward. Now that college esports has the validation of ESPN behind it, the next step is getting colleges like Rutgers University to see the possibilities in supporting your university’s esports scene.
What’s next for you, personally, after this? How has Rutgers helped you get there?
LLamuH: There are still questions about if we’re going to be able to field a team to play next year. A few of our players are graduating and some may not have the time to commit to this again. If so, this may have been my last year playing/coaching Overwatch. I may return to my competitive esports roots and play Halo again. The past 3 years of playing collegiate Overwatch has turned me into a much smarter player than how I was before and I believe I’ll be able to find success in the Halo scene again. But if we do get players, then I will come back as a coach, and this time, we won’t lose.
Beaniez: Next for me is up in the air right now. I’d like to work on my play-by-play commentary career by getting involved with Open Division or Contenders broadcasts. I’ve been diving deeper the last few months and it’s one of my passions that I’d love to turn into a career. I’d also like to look into player or team management for an organization. I’ve had 2+ years experience running Rutgers Overwatch and I think I could bring a lot to a teams support system for their players.
The one thing both of these passions have in common is that they started at Rutgers through working with Rutgers Esports. Rutgers Esports gave me the opportunity to run the Overwatch team when I was a wide-eyed, deer in headlights, just playing Junkrat in gold. I also got my first taste of broadcast commentary at The Scarlet Classic III commentating for the Overwatch tournament. It’s been such a wild journey the last 2+ years where I’ve discovered more about myself and other people. All of it is owed to Rutgers Esports and I can’t express my gratitude enough for being given this chance.
Lastly, any parting words or people you want to thank?
LLamuH: Lastly, I want to thank everyone involved with the CEC for giving me the opportunity to travel with my close friends and to compete in something that I love. I want to thank Tespa for organizing tournaments for the collegiate scene. When I didn’t have enough time to commit to become a professional Halo player, I thought my competitive gaming career was over.
I am very grateful to Tespa for giving me the opportunity as a college student to continue to compete. I also want to thank my team for being such amazing players. Admittedly, I made a lot of mistakes as my first year coaching. There were plenty of things I did not know and I appreciate my team for understanding and helping me become a better coach.
Beaniez: I want to thank everyone who supported our team during the past 9 months. We put a ton of work into developing ourselves as a team and I hope we’ve made everyone proud. I’d also like to thank everyone on our team, Stevebobsam, ChknNwaffles, Vak, Kyrie13, Insane, FistofYang and LLamuh for an absolutely amazing year. We accomplished so much together this year and it’s a shame that all good things must come to an end. Finally, I want to say that New Jersey has some absurd esports talent that is just waiting to be cultivated.
Once we have more funding to support these competitions, I’m so unbelievably confident that Rutgers will be the #1 esports university in America.
Be sure and check out the Rutgers Esports Twitter page to keep up with their bright future and see what’s next after Beaniez and LLamuH move on. Otherwise, stay tuned for continued coverage from the Inside the CEC series here, at The Game Haus.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Rutgers Esports
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