Mason Peatling brought more than crafty post play and a beyond-his-years disposition to Eastern Washington, the second biggest commitment of the Australian’s young life.
His wife, Laura Peatling, also made the move from the coastal city of Melbourne, where the two married in 2016, months before relocating to Cheney.
Peatling, who turns 23 in March, has since bloomed into the Big Sky Conference’s most efficient forward, averaging 16.1 points and 8.6 rebounds for EWU, (16-7, 9-3 Big Sky) which hosts rival Idaho (6-17, 2-10) on Thursday.
His marriage – a rare union for a young Division I athlete – has also blossomed.
“Once I found someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I didn’t see the point of waiting,” said the 6-foot-8 Peatling, who will celebrate his four-year anniversary next week. “So we tied the knot and things have been great.”
Their peers initially thought they were kidding.
“When we first got here, people would ask, ‘Are you really married or are you just saying that?’ ” Laura said. “We’d get asked a lot of things, like if we were Mormons or got married (for U.S. citizenship), which would be about impossible to do.”
Laura, a former club basketball player, has resided at EWU’s family housing with Mason and will until they return to Australia, where she is a makeup artist and freelance model.
The couple’s Havanese dog, Bonnie, keeps Laura company as Mason balances the rigors of high-level college basketball and school.
They share a Jeep with an odometer well over 200,000 miles, a vehicle used to run errands, hang out with friends and catch a local screening of Mason’s away games.
Mason mostly uses the Jeep to get to Spokane three times a week for graduate classes.
“We sometimes make multiple Safeway runs a day,” Laura said. “Because when I make him him meals when he gets home, it’s like he’s eating for six people.”
Love and basketball
Laura didn’t initially plan on traveling overseas with her family to watch her brother, 6-8 forward and current Barton (North Carolina) College junior Blake Burdack, play against American high school teams near Cincinnati in 2015.
If she hadn’t, she likely wouldn’t have met Mason, her brother’s teammate on a traveling club team geared for exposing Australian players to American college coaches.
But she did, and eventually caught Mason’s eye on the two-week trip. The two kept in touch when they were returned to Melbourne.
They married roughly a year later.
Mason signed a letter of intent with EWU three months before their wedding, having been courted by then-head coach Jim Hayford and current head coach Shantay Legans, then an assistant.
Laura, 23, admittedly knew little about Cheney and the Spokane area when agreed to go with Mason.
“I knew he wasn’t the party-boy type and was very serious about our relationship,” Laura said. “And if college basketball was something he really wanted to do, I wanted to support him.”
Mason didn’t have to sell the area to his soon-to-be wife.
“Four years isn’t long,” he said. “And we plan to go back, hopefully somewhere near our families.”
Mason and Laura’s marriage hasn’t deterred them from enjoying the college life.
They go out with friends after games, but mostly to eat and socialize. Mason doesn’t drink, Laura said, making him a trusted designated driver.
They have fun, but are often home sooner than most 20-somethings.
“I was more into the nightlife (in Australia) than Mason,” she said. “He literally has water and chocolate milk.”
In group settings, they’re often spend time with the more long-term couples, but some of Mason’s younger teammates have robust dating lives.
Players in committed relationships joke with Mason that they’re married, too.
“They’ll say, ‘Well, time to go hang out with my wife,’ ” said Mason, a two-time All-Big Sky selection. “It’s kind of a one-liner with the guys.”
Legans said Mason has balanced the role of a husband, player and student perfectly.
“He’s the ultimate team captain,” Legans said. “He has fun, but obviously has a different set of rules.
“I’m married now, but I don’t go to graduate school or play in games. “But to be 22 years old and those responsibilities that far from home and family, and they’ve done it four years.”
Mason doesn’t see himself much differently.
“I have a little different situation than my teammates off the floor, but on the floor we’re all the same,” he said.
Communication is key
Mason earned his finance degree in less than four years and has been named the Big Sky’s All-Academic Team multiple times.
Laura helps him study, keeps their apartment clean and often prepares healthy meals, all the things she said help her husband’s balance of school, basketball and life.
“My role here is to make his making that easier, to help him manage and really focus on basketball and his master’s degree,” she said.
When he’s away on the road, she often watches his web-streamed games on the Pluto Network, opining on the respective home team’s announcers.
“I’ll get a text after every game if the announcers were good or not,” Mason said. “She takes the wins with the losses and supports me through it all.”
When things get hard, they make it a point to communicate.
“We’ll go outside the house, have coffee and talk,” Laura said. “If someone isn’t on the same page, we communicate, which is major.”
Mason, also a big in-game communicator for Big Sky preseason favorite Eagles, points to trust and communication for the young couple’s success.
“We just have very aligned priorities and what we want to do with our lives,” he said. “We really support ourselves.”
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