When it comes to making a difference on the college basketball court, Lower Cape May Regional High School graduate Lauren Holden isn’t leaving anything to chance.
The 5-foot-5 guard, a Cape May native, is a junior at Fordham University and serves as the Rams’ starting point guard. She’s a driving force behind the 2-2 Rams, who play in the Atlantic 10 Conference and were set to face Manhattan on Wednesday night. She’s averaging 9.3 points per game.
Holden recently scored 13 points in Fordham’s 55-46 win over Maryland-Baltimore County, but her value to the team is about much more than scoring.
“I’m so impressed with Lauren’s leadership abilities,” said Rams head coach Stephanie Gaitley, herself a Cape May County native of Ocean City. “She’s grown into the point-guard role and the captaincy.”
Holden, The Press 2015 Player of the Year, started all 33 games for the Rams last season, and her role has grown even more this season.
“We really feed off each other,” Holden said of her teammates. “At the end of a practice or a game, we’re there to stick together and help each other out.”
Holden’s statistics through her first two seasons are impressive, especially last year. She averaged 8.5 points per game last season, and finished third on the Rams with 60 assists.
Holden has also made a successful lifestyle adjustment, trading the shore environs of Cape May for the grittier city experience of the Bronx.
“It’s definitely a lot different,” she said. “I like being somewhere different than where I grew up.”
Holden’s gym-rat tendencies pay off in games. One amazing statistic is that she missed only six free throws her freshman season despite playing in 31 games.
“She’s a tremendously hard worker,” Gaitley said. “There’s no part of her game that she ignores.”
Gaitley should know about perseverance. When she came to Fordham, the Rams were three seasons removed from an 0-29 campaign. Gaitley became the program’s all-time winningest coach last season. Heading into Wednesday’s game, Gaitley has 122 wins while at Fordham.
She has been a college head coach for 31 seasons, which included 10 at the helm of Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. With the Hawks, Gaitley earned five 20-wins seasons and the same number of NCAA tournament berths.
Her coaching philosophy hasn’t changed much over the years.
“First of all, you have to work harder than anybody,” Gaitley said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s all about happiness. You get out of this game what you put in.”
“Your teammates are what matters most,” she said. “The games and results are super important, but when you look back years later it’s the friendships you made that will be the most important.”
Gaitley said the Rams formed a real bond on a preseason tour of Spain and Italy.
“We developed our playing rotation on that trip,” she said. “At one point, we saw the team start to come together and really play as a unit. That’s why trips like those are so important.”
Holden is ready to jump into the thick of the season ahead of the Christmas holidays.
“It’s a really busy part of our schedule, and one where we can make our mark,” she said. “Every team is in the same boat, with a ton of games spread over a small amount of days. The good teams step up.”
And Gaitley is confident that Holden can lead the Rams to new heights this season.
“Lauren is a player that raises the level of your program,” she said. “She puts the work in and deserves everything she gets.”
And is it strange for two Cape May County natives to be plying their basketball trade in the Bronx?
“I do wonder about how we both got here,” Gaitley said with a laugh. “But I’ll take it.”