Jessica Melamed: Long Road to Stardom

 Jessica Melamed (2), a sophomore guard on the Santa Monica College women's basketball team, poses for a portrait at the SMC Pavilion at the Santa Monica college main campus. Santa Monica, Calif., Feb. 17, 2018. (Photo by: Justin Han/Corsair Staff)

Jessica Melamed (2), a sophomore guard on the Santa Monica College women's basketball team, poses for a portrait at the SMC Pavilion at the Santa Monica college main campus. Santa Monica, Calif., Feb. 17, 2018. (Photo by: Justin Han/Corsair Staff)

In the game of basketball, players display their natural abilities through ball-handling skills, defense, an efficient jump-shot and moves to drive to the rim. Over time, an individual can become a student of the game by practicing these abilities, which is exactly what Jessica Melamed did.

Melamed, a sophomore point guard for the Santa Monica College women's basketball team out of Beverly Hills High School, finishes her tenure on what has been considered as the one of the best in school history.

A native of Beverly Hills, Melamed explained some of the responses she gets when someone asks her where she resides in.

"I feel like it's the same," Melamed said. "Everyone always says 'oh you're from Beverly Hills,' and I'm just like yea I am, and they all think about like oh you're rich oh you're this. Honestly just because I live in Beverly Hills doesn't mean anything. I was raised maybe not the same as every other family, maybe like more privileged and not little bit more, I feel like people think wrong of Beverly Hills, and (I'm) kind of used to it, I don't really care. I do me, and I do me all the time, and I don't care what people say."

Melamed also gave an insight on how she got into basketball, living with her family who helped get her to this point.

"I grew up with two older brothers, and a lot of older guy cousins, so I was always with them for holidays, or shabatz for Friday nights, and they would play I just kind of joined them all the time," Melamed said. "At the age of seven I joined in a league until I got to high school, and then I came here. So basketball is in my family."

Melamed's start at SMC however, was one that proved to be a tough challenge to overcome. After her first four games in college, she suffered an ACL tear that forced her off the court for nine months. She mentioned how hard it was dealing with the road to recovery. "I think that was one of the toughest obstacles I've ever been through," Melamed said. "I've been through like concussions here and there in high school, back to back and ankle injuries, but they weren't as bad as getting surgery. So I think overcoming an ACL injury, and coming back to playing to the level I'm playing is definitely an accomplishment for myself."

After her return from injury, Melamed played her first full season in a Corsair uniform, and was a complete force for her team, as she went to earn a first-Team all conference honors, and was part of a team that won the Conference title during the 2016-17' season. But going into this season Melamed said that the team lost many of its more experienced players. "(It's) Definitely different compared to this year...definitely different than what it is now and it kind of sucks to lose all those sophomores and all of our top players, but that's how junior college basketball is," Melamed said. "Girls are not going to keep returning and can only play for two years."

The athleticism Melamed displays on the court is tremendous, with her ball-handling skills, defensive capabilities, an efficient jump-shot, and a knack for driving to the rim. These skills grew under the tutelage of SMC head coach Lydia Strong, who has led the women's basketball program since 2000.

Strong was complementary when describing Melamed's work ethic. "She is relentless in her pursuit in improving and perfecting her game," Strong said. "I respect her work ethic and the fact that she is obsessed with the game. She also has done a lot of film study. A lot of athletes don't realize how valuable film study is in improving your game, and Jess gets it."

Melamed finished her sophomore season averaging 18.3 points, four assists, two steals, and almost five rebounds per game, making first-team all conference for the second year in a row. She credits her skills to Coach Strong and explains how much she loved playing for a coach like her. "Honestly it's been an honor to play under Coach Strong, and unfortunately it's coming to an end," Melamed said. "I feel like she's helped me in any way possible to get me better, and starting with when I tore my ACL, always coming to visit, doing what she can to get me back, and then as soon as I came back, helping me in many ways that my coaches never helped me before. Just being herself, a kindhearted woman who always wants the best for her athletes."

Strong reiterated how close the two are, saying that they have a "good, open and honest," relationship. 

"I think she trusts me with her talent and know I would never steer her wrong. She works on her craft daily and wants to be the best," coach Strong said.

Melamed also gave her thoughts on where her future lies and what her experiences were like here at SMC. "Even if I don't end up playing basketball after here, I would still see myself playing the game whether it's everyday or every other day throughout the week, so I would definitely join a league or two just to stay in shape and play the game," Melamed said.

Melamed wants to continue her active lifestyle at Cal State Northridge this fall. "Hopefully I'll be at Northridge, and fulfill my requirements and everything to get a bachelor's in Kinesiology, and then I would say after that take a big exam and get into a physical therapy school, and then I guess take it from there. I think I could do it, I have the motivation in what I want to do. Just got to take it day by day and not stress too much," she said. "It's definitely been a great experience here at SMC playing, and it's been great. I'm glad I came to SMC and play here."