For the final pick of their first game of the 2023 LCS Spring Split, 100 Thieves locked in Azir—a champion that Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg could maneuver to make game-changing plays as he has done for the past decade. But there was one glaring issue: the draft had finished and 100T had seemingly not locked in a support, now venturing onto the Rift to play against the team that cost the org the LCS Championship last year, Cloud9.
Yet this was entirely calculated by the team. Instead of sitting back and falling victim to the power of the opposing Ashe and Heimerdinger bot lane, they sought to counter it unconventionally with Azir in the support role. This would be the first impression that the team’s newest support player and Academy prospect, Alan “Busio” Cwalina, would make not only on the rest of the competition in the LCS but to fans around the world.
As part of the overhaul to 100T’s LCS roster, the first major changes made to the team since bringing together their championship-winning roster in 2021, the org welcomed two of its most talented Academy players, Busio and Milan “Tenacity” Oleksij, to the main stage. But it wasn’t just any players they’d be joining; alongside them were Can “Closer” Çelik, Bjergsen, and the highly-anticipated return of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, all of whom have multiple LCS accolades to their names.
Rather than feel pressured that he’d be playing with these players, especially right next to Doublelift in the bot lane, Busio internalized how long he had been fighting for a chance to compete on the LCS stage, knowing that he deserved this opportunity and would do his best regardless of who was around him. Yet as a rookie, Busio remained aware that the impact he hoped to make would not be so easily earned.
“Sometimes I do feel like, if I’m playing bad, I think I’m disappointing the people that chose me,” Busio told Dot Esports. “But there’s a balance. I need to also mentally understand that I’m not supposed to be the best player right now, I need time to be comfortable on stage.”
For the past several years, Busio performed alongside and progressed through the levels of the 100T League of Legends program, including the amateur team 100 Next, the 100 Thieves Academy roster, and now part of the main LCS squad. In that time, Busio has remained one of the most-watched support players, having ended nearly every tournament under the 100T umbrella within the top five—most recently leaving his final Academy split as the most valuable prospect, even though he didn’t know the award existed for a while.
Having been a part of 100T for so long made Busio feel much more comfortable in preparing for his LCS debut. Between the people, staff, and the building, Busio noted that the move to the LCS was a “smooth transition,” especially knowing that he was heading to the main roster alongside a trusted teammate that shared his success last year in Tenacity—even acknowledging that he “wouldn’t want him on a different team.”
Off-meta picks like Azir are all a part of the mid-laner-turned-support’s plan to shake up the LCS and acted as a staple trait that allowed Busio to stand out among other supports while in the Academy scene. Throughout the 2022 Academy season, Busio brought champions like Nasus and Rumble into the support role, while also being able to perform exceptionally well on more meta champions when necessary.
“Picking something the enemy hasn’t practiced against 100 times in the past two weeks gives us a big advantage,” Busio said. “But there’s a balance. You pick what is good and what you think is good, and not just stuff randomly. You can instantly win a game off a pick like Azir just because the enemy doesn’t know how to play against it.”
He may be a new face in the LCS, but Busio already feels a difference in the current 100T roster compared to any he had been a part of before. Beside him were four players, all recognized for their individual strengths, that were more driven to succeed than he was used to, which served as motivation past the pressure of stepping onto the LCS stage for the first time.
“I’ve actually never been on a roster where everybody really wants to win,” Busio said. “Even on my Academy teams, it’s like some people are just kind of chilling. But when five people are bought in, it definitely feels way better.”
While Busio’s surprising Azir pick didn’t result in a victory in his first match, he walked away from his debut having felt less nervous than he anticipated, knowing that this was just the start of what is set to be a split full of growth for himself. And that track to success begins with him truly finding his groove alongside the behemoths of this new 100T roster, hoping to bring back and hone the skills that made him such a threat in the Academy scene.
“In my second split of Academy, I was our main shotcaller—but right now, of course, new team and way more experienced voices than me, I’m not really doing that,” Busio said. “I want to be more aggressive, I want to punish. I think that’s a way scarier team; teams that aren’t looking to just play super slow, actually pushing your lead.”
Busio will look to get his first LCS win tonight against Immortals, where he may just surprise fans with yet another unique support pick from his deep champion pool.