(JTA) — Former Yeshiva University basketball star Ryan Turell took a major step on Saturday toward realizing his dream of becoming the first Orthodox Jew to play in the NBA.
Turell was drafted 27th overall by the Motor City Cruise, the Detroit Pistons’ affiliate in the G League, which is the NBA’s minor league organization. After going undrafted during June’s NBA draft, Turell, 23, is now officially part of a NBA franchise and has drawn closer to the highest echelon of professional basketball.
While playing in the G League does not guarantee a spot in the NBA, it means Turell could be called up to replace an injured or underachieving player. He could also earn an opportunity to play off the bench later in the season.
Turell’s chances of ascending directly from the NCAA’s Division III to the NBA had always been viewed as a long shot, but his efforts were further hampered by injury. Turell had been set to appear at the G League’s combine in May, a scouting showcase for prospects who were not invited to the main NBA Draft event, but he sustained an injury during a workout that forced him to drop out. The injury also kept him out of the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas.
Now, the 6-foot-7 guard, who was the DIII player of the year and helped lead Y.U. to a historic 50-game winning streak, will begin his professional career when the G League tips off Nov. 4.
Turell, an observant Jew, said he plans to play on Shabbat, as long as he can walk from his hotel to the game.
Jewish players have been a rare sight in the NBA since the 1970s. Israeli forward Deni Avdija plays for the Washington Wizards, and former pro Omri Casspi spent years in the league as well. Dolph Schayes was a Jewish standout player in the early days of the modern NBA.