ORONO, Maine — Blanca Millan, Laia Sole and Naira Caceres have had to adapt to a new culture, a new language, academics and the rigors of college basketball at the University of Maine.

The women came to Maine from Spain, where they are pursuing an education and basketball alongside five other Europeans on the Black Bears roster.

All have made immediate impacts while adapting to their new lifestyle. And the three Spaniards readily admit that having two other countrywomen with them influenced their decision to attend UMaine and has made the transition easier.

The women didn’t know each other until they were teammates on Spanish national age-group teams, because they live in different parts of the country.

Millan, a 5-foot-10 guard, started playing basketball as the only girl on a boys team when she was 7. Her parents were basketball players. Caceres, a 6-foot guard, and Sole, a 6-2 forward, didn’t begin playing basketball until they were 12.

“I had to choose between swimming, taekwondo and basketball. Because I was bigger and stronger than the other girls in basketball, my parents told me basketball was probably my sport,” said Sole.

When they are on the floor together they often speak Spanish to each other, which can be a definite advantage.

“But we don’t know what they’re saying, so sometimes it’s not an advantage,” chuckled associate head coach Amy Vachon, who is filling in for head coach Richard Barron while he is on medical leave.

Vachon said they have been a welcome addition to the program.

“They each have their own distinct personalities. They’re a lot of fun to be around. They work real hard. They’re great basketball players but they’re even better people,” said Vachon. “They’re very supportive of each other as well as the rest of the team.

“This has been a huge change for them,” added Vachon. “They’ve come halfway across the world to a place where there’s a different language and everything is different. The challenges to adapt are huge but they’ve done a great job.”

“They are great players on and off the court,” said senior forward Sheraton Jones.

“They have fit in really well,” added senior point guard Sigi Koizar.

The Spaniards were recruited by Barron two years ago and Caceres said he was very convincing.

“It was a good opportunity to keep growing as a player and as a person. Having other Spanish girls coming here was a positive thing, too,” said Sole.

The women aren’t used to frigid winters, especially Caceres, who is from Las Palmas, the capital of The Canary Islands off the coast of northwestern Africa.

“I think the lowest temperature we get is 69 or something like that. We don’t have seasons. It’s summer all the time. It’s like Florida. This is a huge change,” said Caceres.

Parts of mainland Spain average 55 degrees in winter.

“Our winters are like fall here,” said Sole, who is from Igualada, which is 43 miles from Barcelona. “I’m freezing all the time when I go outside. But I’m getting used to it.

“Some friends told me this hasn’t been a bad winter. Thank God,” said Sole.

“I’m freezing, too. But it’s worth it,” said Millan, who is from Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.

The women also have had to adapt to U.S. officiating. They say more fouls are called here than in Spain. Some of the contact that is allowed in European basketball is a foul here.

“I got in a lot of foul trouble early this season,” said Sole.

“Here we practice taking charges (to draw offensive fouls),” said Caceres. “You don’t practice taking charges in Europe. If you get knocked down, they’re going to make a basket because the referee isn’t going to call (a player-control foul).”

The language has also been a major adjustment, although all three speak pretty good English.

“At the beginning of the (school) year, I would go talk to the professor after class and tell him I was an international student. I asked him if he could be patient with me because I didn’t understand everything,” said Millan.

“I was very lost the first semester. I didn’t understand a lot of things,” added Sole.

It has gotten easier as they have been immersed into their new culture.

They have also had to adapt to the food and a different eating schedule.

“In America, fruit is more expensive than cake. It’s the opposite in Europe,” said Sole. “That’s why some Americans are bigger (than Spaniards).”

Caceres said the biggest change is breakfast.

“They have omelettes and bacon here and we never see bacon. And pancakes. Maybe you can eat pancakes as a dessert but not for breakfast,” said Caceres.

Millan said mealtimes are vastly different. Some of that is predicated by the “siesta” as Spanish shop owners routinely close their stores between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

“You have lunch around 2 or 3 and dinner at 10 or 11 in Spain,” said Millan. “Having lunch at noon is crazy. We never do that. If we wake up late, we have breakfast at noon (in Spain).”

On the court, they continue to refine their games.

Sole and Millan are second and third on the team, respectively, in scoring, and field-goal percentage. Caceres is second in rebounds per game.

Sole is averaging 9.3 points per game and her shooting percentage is 45.7 percent. She is also third in assists (2.0) and has contributed 3.4 rebounds per game.

Millan is averaging eight points per game and her shooting percentage is 45.5 She leads the team in steals with 38 (1.7 per game). She is also fourth in assists (1.9), third in three-pointers made (30) and has grabbed 2.6 rebounds per game.

Caceres is averaging 4.4 rebounds per game and she also averages 3.7 points.

They each average over 23 minutes of playing time.

“Blanca is playing real well right now,” said Vachon. “Naira is a great overall player who can handle the ball, shoot it and rebound. Laia can score down low with the best of them.”

Millan had a career-high 26 points and Sole tied her career-high with 21 in Sunday’s come-from-behind 84-71 win over rival Albany. Millan went 5-for-8 from beyond the three-point arc.

The three of them said they have been impressed by the attention given to women’s basketball in America. In Spain, soccer is far and away the most popular sport.

Women’s games aren’t televised and aren’t well-attended as they are in the U.S.

“Women’s basketball is such a big deal here,” observed Caceres. “When you go to play at a big-time school like Miami, small kids really look up to you. It’s really amazing.”

Millan used the word amazing to describe playing at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center.

“We play so good in the Cross Center,” added Millan.

Sole said she couldn’t believe women’s basketball games are televised and was fascinated when she would turn on ESPN and watch games involving teams they have played against such as Purdue, Mississippi State, Miami and South Carolina.

UMaine beat Purdue but lost to the other three.

“In the future, we will beat them,” said Sole.

The three amigas enjoy school and their teammates and said they expect to continue improving.

“I was struggling at the beginning. We had to learn a lot of new plays. We had to work hard,” said Caceres. “I haven’t shown my best basketball yet but I’m on my way. Having (Laia and Blanca) with me really helps.”

“I want to push my friends, especially my Spanish crew, to get better,” said Sole. “They help me every single minute. They’re there for me and they know I’ll always be there for them.”