A year ago, Ryan Turell and the Yeshiva University Maccabees were one of the most inspirational stories in men’s college basketball. The Division III school in Washington Heights, N.Y., boasted the longest winning streak in NCAA men’s hoops and its marquee player, Turell, the curly-haired, kippah-wearing 6-foot-7 small forward, was widely considered to be the modern-day “Jewish Jordan,” a moniker previously affixed to Tamir Goodman at the turn of the century. With the NBA Draft looming, there was serious talk of Turell becoming the first Orthodox Jew to crack an NBA roster.
Alas, no such development panned out. Not yet anyway.
Following the 2021-22 season, Turell was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Division III player of the year after leading the country in scoring (all three divisions) but shortly thereafter suffered a minor injury in a May workout, depriving NBA teams from further observing him compete against NBA-caliber talent, and, ultimately, dissuading them from selecting him in the draft.
But Turell remained steadfast in his determination to play in the NBA—similar to his refusal to forego Sabbath observances, even for the sake of broadening his NBA appeal—and was ultimately chosen No. 27 overall in October’s NBA G League Draft by the Motor City Cruise, the Detroit Pistons’ minor league affiliate. And when Turell, 23, made his G League debut for the Cruise during the team’s home opener at Wayne State University Fieldhouse against the Windy City Bulls on Nov. 7, he became the first-ever Orthodox Jew to play for the affiliate of an NBA organization.
While Turell has seen limited playing time thus far for the Cruise, his mere presence has ignited rabid interest among members of the metro Detroit Jewish community. Indeed, a common sight at the Wayne State University Fieldhouse this fall has been the 3,000-seat facility filling up with dozens, if not hundreds, of Orthodox Jewish fans thunderously cheering on Turell every time he checks in.
The enthusiasm has been contagious across the organization as the team’s parent club, the Pistons, held a Jewish Heritage Night earlier this month involving Chanukah gelt and menorah giveaways; there are also plans for Jewish day school students to stand alongside Pistons players during the National Anthem at an upcoming game.
As Turell told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency after a mid-November home game, “Jews love basketball. They really do. The Jewish community is incredible, them coming out and cheering me on. It really means the world to me. And it’s special because it’s bigger than basketball.”
- Year in Review
- David Ostrowsky
- Ryan Turell
- Yeshiva University Maccabees
- men’s college basketball
- Division III
- Washington Heights
- Jewish Jordan
- Tamir Goodman
- National Association of Basketball Coaches
- NBA G League
- Motor City Cruise
- Detroit Pistons
- Wayne State University Fieldhouse
- Windy City Bulls
- Jewish Heritage Night
- Jewish Telegraphic Agency