Former Winona Lake resident and current NBA player Mason Plumlee spent some time visiting with student-athletes at Sacred Heart School this week via FaceTime.

Plumlee, who played for Duke University and was a member of the Blue Devils’ 2010 national championship in Indianapolis, spoke on what it takes to be a champion on and off the floor.

Plumlee won three state titles at Christ School in Asheville, N.C., was 2009 North Carolina Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American. He currently plays for the Denver Nuggets.

"I've been able to win championships at different levels. But the formula is the same,” Plumlee said to the students. “It takes many pieces to the puzzle, everyone has a role, and in order to win, each team member has to perform their role. Scorers need to score. Rebounders need to rebound.

“So many factors go in to winning a championship, that's why it's important to never take opportunities like this for granted. The elementary city tournament is like the NCAA tourney in that any given team can win on any given night. In the NBA, we play a seven-game series so the best team always wins. But at your level, anything can happen. That's why you always respect the opponent right in front of you, because once you start looking too far ahead, you can't see what's right in front of you. And that's how good teams can get beat."

Questions were posed by Sacred Heart coach Colin Clemens, who was a teammate of Plumlee’s at Warsaw Community High School before Plumlee transferred out of state. Clemens asked Plumlee about what champions do when they’re not playing.

"You're not truly champions unless you do it the right way. Respecting teachers, coaches, parents, and your members of the community is of the utmost importance. I once had a teammate that broke team rules and he was suspended for five games, and it really hurt our team. Most don't think of the consequences of their actions until they're already in trouble.

“I know Colin, and you guys are lucky to have a coach that has been there before and knows so much about the game. Buy in to that mindset of being a champion in all those phases, and you'll be putting up a banner on that wall here soon."

The fifth-year NBA veteran, who previously played for Brooklyn and Portland, also spoke on the different roles each member of the team plays to make the whole squad better, and what Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski asked of him as his college career progressed.

"I've been asked to perform several different roles in my career. My first year at Duke, Coach K asked me to set screens, rebound, and defend. I only averaged a few points per game then. But I performed the role I was asked to do and I contributed to a national championship,” Plumlee said.

“My senior year, Coach K asked me to score more because the team needed me to. So, that year I averaged like 18 points per game performing an entirely different role.

“And in the NBA I've had to do multiple roles throughout my career so far. Whether it's been to set screens and rebound or to facilitate or just play defense and run the floor. I have to do my job just like my teammates have to do their’s. That's how champions win, when everyone performs their role together."

Plumlee also talked about the opportunity the Sacred Heart players have in Warsaw, and the importance of learning the fundamentals of basketball.

“"I started playing basketball in kindergarten or first grade, and I remember going to Tiger Camps and getting taught all the fundamentals the game has to offer,” said Plumlee. “If you were to watch our practices in the NBA, that's all you'd see. I know if you flip on ESPN or go on YouTube, you'd see all the dunks and buzzer beaters and the fancy dribble moves and passes. But those are all just improvisations off of fundamentals that are practiced endlessly behind the scenes.

“Those plays aren't possible unless you've mastered the fundamentals of the game. You can't do Steph Curry's dribble moves if you don't first learn how to dribble with both hands, dribble with your head up, and fully control the basketball.

“I call this generation "the highlight generation" because all kids want to do is copy the highlights they see on ESPN. Too often kids aren't focusing on the fundamentals of the game."

Plumlee has played in more than 300 NBA games, averaging nine points and six rebounds in 22 minutes per contest on the floor for his career to date. He’s also appeared in the NBA playoffs each of the last three seasons.