WATERVILLE — Asked for his assessment of Thomas College — and Maine in general — Patrik Lubin, a forward on the men’s basketball team, didn’t hesitate.

“It’s too cold,” the Orlando, Florida native said with a smile.

Understandable. But Lubin’s had some help getting through those cold snaps and harsh winters. Lubin and teammates Angel Gonzalez and Justin Butler, both guards, are former classmates at William R. Boone High School in Orlando, best friends growing up, and now sophomores playing a second season together at Thomas.

“It’s great, because I can be with my boys up here,” Lubin said. “We get to go to school together, we get to play together. … They were all like my brothers, so it’s great to just come up here and play with them. We grew up together.”

The three are part of a Florida pipeline that was established under previous coach Geoff Hensley and current coach Joe Scheuers. Seven Terriers are from Florida, with four — Lubin, Gonzalez, Butler and freshman guard Jordan Goodson — hailing from Orlando.

“We call it ‘Florida vibe,’ ” Lubin said. “Florida guys are like family. So we just stick together.”

That cohesion is even sharper with three former teammates. Scheuers said that connection is clear to see, both on and off the court.

“You can definitely tell there’s a bond between those guys,” he said. “Those guys are always together. There’s definitely a flow that they see with one another, and it’s fun to watch.”

A move to Maine wasn’t always that far-fetched. Division III schools down south are scarce, so players routinely come up to the Northeast looking for opportunities to play. Gonzalez, for instance, said he was also recruited by Husson, as well as another school in New York.

It was Butler’s turn when Hensley came down to recruit the Boone standout. Butler stood out — but so did his teammates.

“He started by recruiting Justin, then he sees Justin playing with me and I start hitting the threes, but when I’d miss Pat would be cleaning it up,” Gonzalez said. “He was like ‘Wow, if I can get all three of you, you all seem like you’re on the same page.’ We killed it our high school senior year. So he offered us right there on the spot.”

For the players, it was an easy decision.

“It was like a shock when he offered us,” Gonzalez said. “We were all like ‘This is the best feeling. Why not? Let’s go, let’s get the process started.’ … I had no idea I would be going to the same school as my best friends.”

The three grew up within minutes of each other, and going together made packing up and moving 2,000 miles away seem less daunting.

“One of the main reasons I didn’t want to come up here was I didn’t want to come by myself,” Butler said. “I didn’t want to come up here, away from home, by myself. But them coming, it’s easier.”

Still, the change in culture provided a jolt.

“Florida’s way different than Maine. Florida, there’s a million people, (whereas) Maine, it’s kind of like everybody’s quiet and to themselves,” Butler said. “But it’s still kind of like a family. There’s not a lot of people here, but the people that are here, we’re all a family. Thomas College is a family. It’s a good feeling.”

There was a learning process on the court as well. Butler started all 26 games as a freshman, Gonzalez started 18 and Lubin started none, but Scheuers said they’re finding roles as vital players in the Thomas lineup.

“Pat didn’t play much last year, and I challenged him from the get-go, ‘You can do something special.’ And he’s eating it up, he started both games that we had,” he said. “Justin, he can play the 1 and the 2, and when he is under control, he has really good court vision. He really finds people, that’s probably his best attribute. … (Angel) has a lot of potential. And once he sees the confidence, he’s going to be one of the best players in the conference.”

As was the case at Boone, the three have playing styles that fit when they’re on the court together.

“I like to drive, (Angel) likes to shoot, (Patrik) likes to rebound and put stuff back, so it’s one of every category,” Butler said. “A driver, a shooter, a rebounder who goes back up with it, so we just mesh. It’s like a big-three type.”

They also have lessons they can share with their freshman teammates, having experienced a full season of college competition.

“As freshmen, we didn’t know what to do,” Lubin said. “We had roles and stuff like that, but in our sophomore years, we get to show the freshmen ‘OK, this is what we’ve got to do to win.’ ”

And Thomas has won. The Terriers went 14-12 and reached the North Atlantic Conference quarterfinals last season, and hopes are high for an even better campaign.

A competitive team has helped the players realize they made the right choice — even if those winters don’t feel any warmer.

“We came up here and we just got used to it,” Butler said. “And having us three together made it easier to get used to.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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