Lauren Holden visited Fordham University this spring and felt immediately it was the school for her.

So even though the Lower Cape May Regional High School basketball standout is just beginning her junior year, the 5-foot-5 point guard has verbally committed to attend Fordham on a Division I scholarship.

"I feel Fordham was the whole package for me," Holden, 16, said. "It's a great feeling to have my college decision out of the way. Fordham was a perfect fit for me. As soon as I walked on the campus, I knew that's where I wanted to go."

Ocean City native Stephanie Gaitley is the Fordham women's basketball coach. Gaitley starred at Ocean City High School from 1974-78.

"Coach Gaitley and her staff had a great influence on me going there," Holden said. "They weren't just great as coaches. They were wonderful as people too. I like coach Gaitley's demeanor when she coaches. She carries herself with such class."

Holden didn't meet Gaitley until her spring visit to Fordham.

"We knew who she was," Holden said. "It was a neat connection that we had that we're from the same (county)."

Holden plans to major in education. She liked Fordham's location. The school is in the Rosehill section of the Bronx near the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden.

"When you're on campus you feel like you're in the suburbs," Holden said, "but when you want to go into (Manhattan) you can."

Holden emerged as one of the Cape-Atlantic League's top players as a sophomore. She averaged 18.4 points and led the Caper Tigers to a 18-10 record. Holden sank 40 3-pointers and made 88.5 percent of her foul shots last season.

Holden comes from a basketball family. He father Pat was a standout player at The College of New Jersey and Richard Stockton College. He coached the Lower boys team for 14 years before resigning after the 2010 season. Holden's uncle Scott is the current Lower boys coach. Her grandfather George Holden - Pat and Scott's father - coached the Lower boys team in the 1970s and 1980s.

"She sees the floor better than most people." Lower girls coach Scott Douglass said. "She knows how to set the offense up. Her on-the-ball defense is better than I've ever seen."

Holden will be joining a program on the rise. Gaitley, who will begin her third season at Fordham this fall, has quickly turned the Rams around. Fordham finished 26-9 and lost in the Atlantic 10 title game to Saint Joseph's by a point last season.

Gaitley cannot comment on Holden until the player signs a national letter of intent. Holden cannot sign that letter until October of her senior year, under NCAA regulations.

"I feel very fortunate and blessed," Holden said. "I have the opportunity to play (college basketball), but I know I still have to improve and get better. It (getting a scholarship) was definitely one of my goals."

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185