Gorham High junior Emily Esposito has verbally committed to play basketball at Villanova University.

The 5-foot-10 guard has been one of the state’s most prolific scorers in her three-year career for the Rams, with 1,034 points heading into her senior season. She made her decision Monday night, informing Villanova Coach Harry Perretta in a phone conversation.

“Ever since I was a little girl, Division I was my goal,” Esposito said Wednesday. “But I didn’t want to settle for some place where I could be a star. I wanted to go where I was going to have to push myself. Villanova is that place.”

She had narrowed her choices to Villanova and DePaul.

“I’m glad it’s over with,” said Esposito. “I never realized how much the whole recruiting process had weighed on me until the day after (her decision). I came home and I had so much more energy than I usually have when I get home. I didn’t have to worry about coaches calling me anymore. I didn’t have to worry about calling any coaches. I felt like I didn’t have a job to do any more. It’s so much of a relief.”

Under NCAA rules, Perretta, who has coached the Wildcats for 38 years, cannot comment until Esposito signs her national letter of intent, which for basketball players does not occur until November of their senior year.

“I think it’s a good spot that’s going to be good for her for a lot of reasons,” said Don Briggs, Esposito’s coach on the Maine Firecrackers club team. “It’s a great school academically and she’s got a great connection with the coach.”

Esposito is a three-time Maine Sunday Telegram all-state selection. She averaged 18.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 3.1 steals in leading the Rams to an undefeated Class AA state championship last winter.

Villanova, a member of the Big East, finished 20-12 last year and lost in the second round of the WNIT.

Esposito was visiting Philadelphia with her family last summer when they stopped by the Villanova campus. She hadn’t had much contact with Perretta during the recruiting process to that point, but stopped in to see him.

“Everything kind of changed that day,” said Esposito. “It really was fate. I hadn’t talked much to him before that. Since then, he would call a couple of times a week and we would talk about basketball, of course, but also anything you could talk to your parents about. I feel I can talk to him about anything.”

Laughn Berthiaume, the Gorham girls’ basketball coach, said that relationship is critical.

“Coach Perretta visited us this year and by the time he was done, I wanted to play for him,” said Berthiaume. “It’s a good spot for Emily. He’s well established, a well-respected coach and his teams always do well. So I think she’s in a good spot.”

Esposito, who has recovered from surgery she had on her right wrist following the high school season, said she plans on studying psychology and business.