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So close, yet so far away

Growing up, they lived miles apart and attended the
same college. But after volleying on a court date, it was love all for
these newlyweds.

Published August 26, 2005

DAVIS ISLANDS – South Tampa isn’t as small as you might think. Brad
Bassler and Ashley Mullis lived a couple of miles apart their entire
lives: He on Davis Islands; she in Palma Ceia. Their parallel paths
never crossed until last year when they met at a Gasparilla party.

Bassler followed the Gorrie-Wilson-Plant route, class of 1993 and third-ranked on the tennis team.

Mullis started at St. Mary’s Episcopal Day School and graduated
from Berkeley Prep where she helped the volleyball team win the Class A
state championship four years in a row.

Both went on to the University of Florida where Mullis earned
All-American honors and finished her volleyball career fourth on
Florida’s kills list (1,162). The outside hitter helped UF to the Final
Four in 1993 while earning a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications in

Bassler never missed a UF football game in college – nor has he
since – but he never made it to a volleyball match. One of his best
friends dated one of Mullis’ Berkeley teammates, and still they never

They didn’t meet at a Bikers’ Bash, either, at Bassler’s fraternity, Sigma Chi. Both attended with other dates.

With a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Bassler, 30,
started his career with Exactech, an orthopedic implant manufacturer in

Mullis, 31, moved west to Beaver Creek, Colo., with an idea of
becoming a sportscaster. In between waitressing and snowboarding, she
broadcast live snow reports for a local TV station.

Her UF volleyball coach recruited her to play exhibition games in
Europe in May 1998. The 5-foot-11 hitter caught the eye of a Belgian
team manager who signed her to a 10-month contract near Brussels.

When she returned to Tampa, Mullis got a real estate license, like
her mother Anne, a broker associate with Smith & Associates
Realtors. She pursued a master’s degree in elementary education at the
University of South Florida.

In fall 2000, deja vu. Mullis began teaching at her alma mater, St.
Mary’s, and coaching volleyball and other sports. Last year, her girls’
team was undefeated.

A year later, Bassler moved back to Tampa to develop medical
devices for Liquidmetal Technologies. He has a patent pending as
coinventor of a cardiac stent. The company did not live up to its
potential, he said, and the Tampa operation closed three years later.

He declined an offer to work for them in California and formed his
own company, Eternalloy Medical Technologies, with three partners.
Their Safety Harbor plant develops diffusion treatment processes to
coat implants and instruments to increase durability.

The couple didn’t meet at Home Depot, either, after both bought houses near where they grew up.

Finally, face time at a Gasparilla party in February 2004. Mullis’
father, Hal, is captain of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and in line to
be king in 2007.

"My friends were all debutantes and ran for queen or the court, but
I never had time," she said. "Volleyball always took precedence."

Bassler wasn’t too enthused about the party until his buddy showed him a picture of Mullis and said she’d be there.

He introduced himself that night. "Where have you been all my life?" would have been a perfect pickup line.

Mullis asked friends to invite him to her 30th birthday karaoke
party a few weeks later. She was disappointed when she heard he got
stuck in Gainesville, where he was studying for a master’s in business
administration on the weekends.

At last, they met up for drinks at Splitsville in Channelside.
Quick courting led to court time when Mullis asked him to fill in as a
fourth for tennis the next morning.

"He was better than all of us put together," she said.

The two jocks found other matchups. She belonged to the Tampa Yacht
and Country Club; he has a membership to Palma Ceia Golf and Country
Club. Mullis has season tickets to the Tampa Bay Bucs; Bassler has the
UF season tickets.

They ran Bayshore Boulevard almost every day to train for the
Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Woodstock, Vt., in June 2004. During a
trip to the Bahamas this February, Bassler proposed.

"It was a graduation trip because we both finished our master’s," Bassler said.

In his computer bag, he hid a diamond ring and a bottle of Dom Perignon.

"I was freaking out that customs would open my bag and she’d see
them," he said. A delay in their departure time added more stress. He
wanted to be there in time to propose at sunset.

As soon as they arrived, he suggested they head to the beach.

Mullis walked and talked, oblivious to what was coming.

"We never once talked about marriage," she said.

The pair hustled to plan a summer wedding so they could honeymoon during Mullis’ school vacation.

On July 30, more than 600 guests witnessed their vows at Palma Ceia
Presbyterian Church followed by a reception at the Tampa Yacht Club.
The newlyweds departed by boat, cruising to the Marriott Waterside
Hotel before a week of golf and snorkeling on Kauai.

After 30 years on divergent routes, they’ve happily returned to their South Tampa roots.


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490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111

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