For newlyweds Jeanette Pohlen Mavunga and Julian Mavunga, basketball is more than their shared profession – it’s been the constant throughout their relationship.
“That’s the thing about the sport that we play, it’s all about improving and I think we help each other improve as people and as basketball players, and at the end of the day, that’s why we gel so well,” Julian said.
The couple met on the practice court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Julian was back home having just wrapped up his season playing professionally overseas and was working out with Jeanette’s Fever teammate Tamika Catchings when he offered to stick around and quickly made an impression.
“Even when he was rebounding for me, he was trying to make me laugh,” Jeanette recalled.
“I was making her laugh,” Julian clarified with emphasis, eliciting a chuckle from his bride.
And that’s not the first time things have worked out in Julian’s favor on the court in the Fieldhouse. He was a pivotal part of Brownsburg’s 2008 State Title, setting up his teammate, Gordon Hayward, for the game-winning shot.
“Everybody only remembers Gordon making the layup, but I knocked the ball lose,” Julian explained, with a grin. “The pass was made and they caught the ball with two hands. The game should have been over. I don’t know that was probably the quickest my hand has ever moved. I just reached in with my hand, the ball came loose, Gordon caught it and made the lay up.”
“Gordon gives me credit, but I feel like everyone else in Indiana just says, ‘Oh, Gordon caught the ball and made the lay up!’ Well, forget my left hand that poked the ball out, whatever,” Julian said with a laugh. “But it was the slowest 2-point-1 seconds of life.”
Shortly after meeting at the Fieldhouse in 2014, Julian headed back overseas, while Jeanette recovered from a torn Achilles tendon. The couple continued dating long distance.
“We both supported each other on a high level that year and we came back home and at the point, I knew,” Julian said.
Reunited back in Indy celebrating Fourth of July weekend two years ago with current and former teammates like Catchings and Hayward on hand, Julian popped the question.
“He was setting off fireworks and I turned around and he was down on one knee,” Jeanette recalled fondly.
Their high school, college and professional teammates also stood alongside them at the altar, Hawyard as best man and former Fever star Katie Douglas a bridesmaid, along with teammates from college and high school.
“We had a very tall wedding party, and guests in general, with coaches and teammates and trainers,” Jeanette added.
The two married in California over the Olympic break last July. Instead of taking a traditional honeymoon, Jeanette wrapped up the Fever season, then joined Julian for his season in Japan, spending five months adapting to their new life together.
“It was tough being away from family and all that during the holidays, but it was nice to have our time together too and start new traditions as a couple,” Jeanette said.
Hosting holiday celebrations were highlights and an opportunity for Jeanette to display her newly-discovered domestic side.
“I think I would be a good housewife whenever I decide to retire that’s one thing I learned overseas,” Jeanette said with a smile.
“Amen,” Julian added.
“I had a little toaster oven, a stovetop and a microwave and cooked Thanksgiving dinner for eight, nine people,” Jeanette explained.
Through a year of juggling wedded bliss and basketball, growing together, and gaining appreciation for one another.
“She could be the most perfect housewife and its surprising because you see her on the court and she’s all serious and tough,” Julian said.
“You would never know,” Jeanette added.
“Nice little housewife. So, what’s for dinner tonight,” Julian said in a playful tone.
“You said you were cooking,” Jeanette countered, not missing beat in their banter.
“We’re going out to eat,” Julian said, prompting a laugh from both newlyweds.
Seems like teamwork and compromise are qualities that have come almost as easy to the Mavunga’s as a couple as basketball did to them independently.