SMCHS basketball standout recalls her high school years fondly, now coaches at college level

By Dan Arritt     10/30/2017

Basketball has filled the memory bank for Melissa Zornig. It took her to faraway places and opened the door to her next career; one she hopes will keep her involved in the sport for years to come. 

Zornig started playing basketball long before she enrolled at Santa Margarita High School as a freshman in 2006, but it was inside the school’s vast gymnasium that she began establishing her name and polishing her game. 

By the time her four years were up with the Eagles, she established school records for points in a career (2,447), points in a season (782) and points in a game (49), school records that figures to stand for years to come. 

She was the CIF-SS Division III-AA co-player of the year in 2009, and the Division 3A co-player of the year in 2010. 

“My time at Santa Margarita was the best,” Zornig said. “I was very serious about basketball and wanted a long career, and I knew if I went to Santa Margarita I’d be able to go to the next level.” 

Zornig accomplished that and much more. 

After a successful college career at UC Santa Barbara and two years playing professionally in Germany and Iceland, Zornig is in her second year as director of operations for the Pepperdine women’s basketball team. 

Zornig has enjoyed her duties so completely, she hopes to rise to become an athletic director in the future. 

“I took this job because I wanted to see the other side of playing,” she said. “I’m really enjoying the administrative side of it.” 

Zornig will never let go of the memories she gained as a player, particularly during her time at Santa Margarita. 

There was the 44-42 victory over Troy in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division I-AA playoffs during her freshman season. Troy had beaten the Eagles by 37 points and again by 25 during the regular season. 

“We weren’t supposed to beat them,” Zornig said. 

Then there was the 52-29 victory over Pasadena Muir in the Division 3A championship game her senior year, the second section title for the girls’ basketball program. 

Her memories didn’t end there. Zornig had a stellar four-year career at UC Santa Barbara, highlighted by a Big West Conference tournament title in 2012 and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.  

Zornig then embarked for Keltern, Germany, where she spent the 2014-15 season with the Gruner Stern and the next season in Iceland with a team called Keflavík. 

“My dream as a kid was always to play overseas,” she said. 

In addition to the chance to play basketball professionally, Zornig enjoyed Germany for the history, food and the ease and ability to visit nearby countries. Iceland exposed her to the most beautiful scenery she’s ever witnessed, from towering glaciers to sprawling lava fields. 

After soaking in those years, Zornig has settled into the next phase, one that keeps her involved in the sport she loves. 

She helps Pepperdine with travel plans, purchasing gear and making sure everything runs smoothly for the coaches and players when they’re not practicing or playing. She’ll get a chance to return to Orange County when the Waves play at UC Irvine on Nov. 30. 

“I’m definitely excited to still be around the game and give back as much as possible,” she said.