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Leader on NCAA basketball court becomes leader of Pasco drug ring, authorities say

Gyasi Cline-Heard, who is now incarcerated at the Pinellas County Jail, was called the "enforcer" on Penn State's golden basketball team, according to a story in the Centre Daily Times. Published exactly one year ago today, the article relived the moment in 2001 when Penn State made the Sweet 16 in the 2001 NCAA Division 1 college basketball tournament.

Cline-Heard is 6 feet 8 inches tall, a forward and son of Gar Heard, an NBA player and coach of the Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards. He was Penn State's co-captain, No. 23, a psychology major and poet with a temper, his body covered with tattoos. After graduation, he played professionally overseas in Belgium and Korea, which is where he played in 2010.

He's not playing again any time soon.

On Feb. 10, Cline-Heard, 32, was arrested on charges he was the leader of a drug and gun ring in Pasco and Pinellas. He and a 25-year-old woman, Jessica Colon, were picked up during a raid at her house in Tarpon Springs. Cline-Heard's tattoo shop in Palm Harbor, Legacy Tattoo, was also raided, along with his house in Trinity. Two other people were arrested at a New Port Richey home as part of the round-up.

Four dozen guns were found during the raids. The enormity of the stockpile of weapons — most of them assault rifles and machine guns with rounds that could easily penetrate officer's vests and cruisers — shocked investigators. Lt. Chuck Balderstone of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office picked up one firearm with a long silencer at a news conference announcing the bust.

"That's something you would see in a spy movie," he said.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said it appears the guns were for sale and for protection. Undercover vice agents bought cocaine and a gun from Heard before the bust, Nocco said. In the course of 11 transactions since November, undercover officers bought more than 617 grams of cocaine — crack and powder — and one .380-caliber handgun, the Sheriff's Office said.

The guns seized were "to kill people and to keep their drug operation going," Nocco said.

Of Cline-Heard and his cohorts, the Sheriff said:

"These people were pretty bad members of our society."

Cline-Heard grew up in Houston. Records show he was divorced from his wife in November. They have a 1-year-old daughter. A relative said Cline-Heard moved to Pasco to be with his now ex-wife, whose family is here. Cline-Heard's mother and father declined to speak to the Tampa Bay Times.

The case was investigated by multiple local agencies at the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Cline-Heard is being held in custody in Pinellas for the U.S. Marshals Service. He was unable to be interviewed.

Cline-Heard scored the winning two points against Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten tournament in 2001 with three-tenths of a second left.

In a story on the University Wire in 2001, Cline-Heard's former high school coach talked of his pride for his student.

"This is a kid that has nothing but upside," Reed said. "With him, the sky is the limit. He has the ability to jump, he's got great hands and he's got his head on square."

Cline-Heard spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000 about how he was an emotional player and, sometimes, that led to him making mistakes.

"I'm my own worst enemy," he said.

Times researchers Natalie Watson and Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6229.

Leader on NCAA basketball court becomes leader of Pasco drug ring, authorities say 02/25/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 25, 2012 1:41pm]
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