DETROIT – One of the members of the Detroit Pistons’ G League affiliate is hoping to make history as the first Orthodox Jew to play in the NBA.
Ryan Turell, 23, is a member of the Motor City Cruise, the Pistons’ affiliate in the G League. As a college senior, the Yeshiva University star averaged 27.1 points, hit 46.8% of his triples, and led his team to a historic 50-game winning streak that vaulted them to a No. 1 ranking in Division III.
Though he wasn’t selected during June’s NBA draft, Turell got closer to his dream of becoming the first Orthodox Jewish NBA player when he signed with the Cruise.
“That would be a dream come true to be able to inspire the Jewish community, and not just the Jewish community, people from all different backgrounds -- show people you can be proud of who you are,” said Turell.
Turell turned down other college opportunities to play at Division III Yeshiva University.
“I wanted to be able to create a pathway for Orthodox Jews that you don’t have to go to Division I to succeed in basketball,” said Turell.
While playing for the Cruise does not guarantee a straight pathway to the NBA, Turell is in position to replace injured or underachieving players for the Pistons.
“He has pure love for the game, and his commitment to his own individual development is off the charts,” said DJ Bakker, the head coach of the Motor City Cruise. “He is serious minded, he is focused, and he is a competitor.”
While Turell is practicing professionally to maximize his potential, he is also practicing his faith.
“It’s who I am,” he said. “It’s what I’ve done my entire life. It’s what I believe in, and Judaism is me.”
During Shabbat, Friday though Sunday, Turell said he doesn’t use electronics. It helps him meditate and disconnect from the busy world and recharge. He said those days, he uses paper maps to navigate to stadiums.
Turell said for some teammates, he is the first Orthodox Jew they’ve met, so he tries to be a role model.
“Hopefully, down the line, when I’m retired and whatnot, I can sit back on the couch and watch NBA games, and a few Yamakas will be on the court,” said Turell.