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Saturday May 10, 2014 Assistant strength coach headed to Missouri State

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Some of the best strength and conditioning work among the nation’s college basketball programs is done in the Florida Gators’ gym under the watchful and demanding eye of Preston Greene. All anyone need do is look at Patric Young, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather to know that.

Note: Chris Walker, who arrived in midseason, is finding out all about it now (much to his dismay).

This week, though, Greene said goodbye to another one of his proteges, top assistant Collin Crane, who will take over the strength program for Missouri State basketball starting next week. He’ll also oversee the men’s and women’s golf teams.

CollinCrane, 23, played basketball at Division II Carson-Newman, so he has a built-in understanding of the best way to condition for the game. And now he’ll embark on the next step of his career with the experience of apprenticing under Greene, one of the absolute best in the business, with a chance to apply what he learned at UF to players in the Missouri Valley Conference.

“I’ve watched tape of them and tried to determine how they play,” Crane said, noting the Bears had a 20-point lead on unbeaten Wichita State during the season, only to become just another victim of the Shockers' 35-game winning streak. “It’s an opportunity to build a foundation with a really young team and make what we do in the weight room part of the culture there.”

Crane, who doubled as strength coach for the Gators men's tennis squad, is one of several support staff members leaving Coach Billy Donovan's program. Assistant video coordinator Billy O’Meara is headed to Minnesota to head up the video crew for the Gophers and Coach Richard Pitino, while the manager trio of Colby Donovan, Brandon Gilbert and David Moats -- yes, all of @UFManager fame on Twitter -- graduated earlier month.

I stopped by the gym Friday to say goodbye to Crane, who in addition to "smashing" Gators the last two years also was gracious with his time for the support staff’s workout sessions. For that, I say thank you.

How key is building relationships with players in the weight room?  “I believe that is huge in this industry. We take those guys to the dark side, push them to their limits and see them at their weakest moments. You can’t take advantage of them. You have to build trust. You’re building them mentally and physically, but also tearing them down mentally and physically. You have to know where to draw a line once you’ve taken them to those weak spots.”

How has your philosophy for training athletes changed since coming to UF? “It definitely has, though I wouldn’t say it’s night and day. It’s improved my perception of how college athletes should train. We’re preparing these guys for battle. It’s not just about bench press and squat numbers. We’re sculpting these athletes and putting their body armor on them so they can withstand the longest season in college sports. Guys have to be tough.”

Two years ago, Will Greenberg was here and now he's the head strength coach at Army. Last year, Griffin Waller left to join the staff at Stanford. Now you. What will you take from your time with Preston? “The guy is the best. I don’t just mean that in a professional sense. He’s one of the top strength coaches in the country because he’s so innovative. He’s been in the industry for 16 or 17 years and he’s seen a lot of changes. There are a lot of strength coaches out there that haven’t adapted with the times. They don’t alter their methods and program to adapt to the evolution of how the game is played. I think Preston has done a great job of adapting and keeping in tune with the changes, pace and physicality of the game.”

How much pride did you take in a 21-0 Southeastern Conference record, 30 straight wins and a trip to the Final Four? “We take a lot of pride in that, but all the credit goes to the players. They buy into the system and realize the importance of what we’re doing in here. They’ve been committed. And you love it when you get through a season without any major injuries ... and then winning all those games along the way, that was special."

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