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Patience is a virtue.

Unless you're a college basketball coach who wants to keep his job.

Once upon a time, programs went through rebuilding years when they replaced graduating seniors with freshmen and endured their growing pains as they adjusted from high school to college.

But rebuilding led to down years. And nobody wants a down year.

So college coaches don't rebuild anymore.

They reload.

Even the Big 4 programs have gotten into the game, seeking and welcoming transfers from other Division I schools in order to pick up talented players with experience offering an immediate impact.

This year's transfers of impact: Kevin Houston at St. Bonaventure via Miami, Michael Schmidt at Niagara via Texas A&M, and Tory Jefferson at Canisius via Rhode Island.

The women may see their first real Division I transfer of impact next season, as Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe sits out this year at the University at Buffalo after transferring from the University of Hawaii.

Nationally about 100 players in men's Division I college basketball were playing as transfers this season. Locally, transfers have played a role in teams for the last several years. Canisius' power teams of the 1990s were fueled by two transfers -- Micheal Meeks (Eastern Kentucky) and Chris Young (Akron).

"I was a big believer in the Dodger way," said Jack Armstrong, former Niagara men's basketball coach. "That you build through the draft and put a premium on player development so that year in, year out, guys improved. But when you have players transfer out and with injuries and sickness you have a lot more factors working against you. So you've gotta be a lot more short-term oriented.

"You've got to be more team-oriented than program-oriented. As much as I hate saying that, it's the nature of sports today. Coaches used to talk about the program. Those years are over. Now, it's what is our team going to do this year, period. The only team you look to beyond this year is next year's team."

The common denominator among the three transfers of impact this year is they were originally recruited by the schools at which they landed. All three wanted to come closer to home after trying on the "glitz and glamour" at distant locations.

"Ten or 15 years ago, coaches were criticized heavily for taking transfers," Armstrong said. "There was a stigma attached. . . . It's not good when you've got someone who's a bad kid or has no desire to be a college student or who transfers because he was a knucklehead at location No. 1, and you're taking someone else's bad news and you're hoping to turn him around. But all three schools I think made excellent decisions with their transfers."

Kevin Houston

The best decision may have been Houston at Bona, at least from a production standpoint.

Houston went to Seward County Community College in Kansas and, though Jim Baron recruited him to come to Bona, he chose Miami and the Big East.

Things were going well until Houston broke his foot. He missed 12 games, lost his starting spot and felt his playing time dwindling away. He ended up starting just six games for the Hurricanes, averaging 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18 games. Houston thought he could do better, and he wanted to be closer to home. Olean isn't exactly near Brooklyn, but it is a heck of a lot closer than Florida.

"I wanted to go home more than anything and be around my family," Houston said. "Coming to St. Bonaventure was an easy choice. I knew so many people here and I really liked Coach Baron and Coach (Joe) Lombardi. Really, I was going to go to St. Bonaventure or Fordham, and Fordham was too close to home. I wanted to get away a little bit."

But go through all that, the transferring and sitting out a year as per NCAA regulations, only to play one season for the Bonnies?

Bona certainly was happy to take his services for a year when the graduation of Tim Winn, Caswell Cyrus and David Capers would otherwise decimate the team.

"He's a proven scorer and a proven entity just from the standpoint of where he's been in junior college and at the University of Miami," Baron said. "With us last year, we knew what we were losing and he was a very positive addition for us.

"A lot of it is being creative with your whole process of a program. You know that you've got some younger kids coming back, but you need some experience. I think that's why schools take transfers. They bring in guys who have been proven.

"Kevin is very passionate about the game and a lot of that is vintage developed over the years. You almost have to have guys who have done their tenure other places. You hate to say that, but by the same token, you want some vintage."

Houston's vintage comes in the way of 19.1 points per game and 7.2 rebounds -- best on the Bonnies and in the top 10 in the Atlantic 10.

Michael Schmidt

Schmidt was the victim of a coaching change at Texas A&M, and when it became clear to him that the Aggies were no longer the team for him, the Toronto native looked to come closer to home.

In his freshman year at Texas A&M, Scmhidt was named to the Big 12 All-Bench team by the media and led the league in three-point percentage at 42.6 percent.

"Out of high school, I wanted to go to a great conference and a big program," Schmidt said. "I thought the coaching staff at Texas A&M was great. They were building a program and they made me feel like I would have been a piece of the puzzle. . . . After my freshman year, coach (Tony Barone) left, and the new coach (Melvin Watkins, who came from UNC-Charlotte) wanted to start his new program. I thought about transferring right way instead of me getting caught in the shuffle."

And so Schmidt checked out Niagara and Canisius. After his visit at Niagara, his time around the players and coaches, he knew that's where he wanted to be.

"When kids are at a school and it just didn't work out, the one thing I want to know is if he still loves to play," said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich. "Schmitty definitely loves to play. It's been good for us."

Schmidt is a full-time starter for Mihalich, averaging 14.5 points, second best on the Purple Eagles, and 4.4 rebounds a game.

Tory Jefferson

Jefferson is a slightly different story. The coach who recruited him, Al Skinner, left Rhode Island a week after Jefferson signed his letter of intent. He went to play for the Rams, anyway, and didn't really have problems with Skinner's successor, Jim Harrick.

He just was on a team with too much talent. As a power forward, he wasn't going to get much playing time behind Lamar Odom, now a rising star in the NBA. Jefferson averaged just 2.6 points and 1.6 rebounds a game in his Rhode Island career.

And so the Rochester native revisited the schools which originally recruited him -- Canisius, Niagara and Buffalo.

It was a no-brainer for him. Jefferson wanted to go to Canisius.

"The first time around, coach (Mike) MacDonald was an assistant coach and he was always coming to see me play," Jefferson said. "We'd be playing midnight games at the playground in neighborhoods he couldn't have felt too comfortable coming to, you know, but he came. I liked that about him."

And MacDonald had always liked Jefferson.

"We worked real hard on him, but in the end, Rhode Island came in and it was the highest level team and a chance to play at an Atlantic 10 school," MacDonald said. "Like most kids, he got caught up in all that. . . . After his sophomore year, I got a call from an assistant coach at Boston College who recruited Tory to Rhode Island. He said Tory was looking to transfer and he got us in touch with him."

"At first, I wanted to stay close to home, but as I got better, bigger schools started recruiting me," Jefferson recalled of the original recruitment process. "And I started listening more to my peers who wanted to see me on TV. . . . But by the end of my sophomore year, it wasn't the place for me. I wasn't happy."

Jefferson has started every game for the Griffs, averaging 9.9 points and 6.2 rebounds in 26.8 minutes a game.

While coaches are looking to satisfy the instant-gratification mentality of sports, ultimately the increase in transfers comes from a new mentality among players, who are more mobile, less traditional and less likely to stick with an uncomfortable situation.

"Guys get caught up in glitz and glitter and the shallow nature of it instead of what the substance is," Armstrong said. "Too many get caught up in the style points. The biggest problem in recruiting -- and it drove me nuts -- was that we would have a better situation for what was right for the kid, but the most important thing was what the kids at the cafeteria table are saying at school."

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