It’s not very often that a draft prospect has the chance to be a pioneer in the NBA.
After averaging 27.1 points per game in NCAA III with Yeshiva University, Ryan Turell could become one by becoming the first Orthodox Jewish player to make the league. A prolific shooter with 47.1 percent of makes from beyond the arc in his senior year, he has already locked up an invite for the upcoming G League Elite Camp.
The 23-year-old forward recently discussed with HoopsHype his preparation for the draft and his dream of becoming a trailblazer for other Jewish kids.
It's been a month and a half since your decision to go pro? How has your life changed as a draft prospect?
Ryan Turell: Well, it changed in the sense where my whole life is basketball now, where I’m really trying to focus on getting better every day. I’m waking up earlier to train and do it more often than I was able to do when I was going to classes and whatnot. Now I’m doing school online. So I’m able to free up more time for me to work harder on my craft.
So being in Los Angeles, have you had the chance to scrimmage against NBA players or players that could be also drafted this year?
RT: Yeah, I go up against and with some of the NBA guys and then some of the guys that are represented by my agency. I’m getting good competition to go up against.
Do you have any NBA team pre-draft workout scheduled?
RT: Yes, I have a few. I have a few teams scheduled. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say which ones or when. But yeah, I have a few.
After working with all those NBA players, is there any aspect of your game you feel you need to improve to be competitive against them?
RT: Right now, I would say the main thing is to get stronger, which is something that I think I can do, put on some healthy weight and just be bigger. I think that’s the one part of my game that if I improve upon can complete the game overall.
And what part of your game do you feel that is holding up well against them?
RT: So I would say my three-point shooting is definitely holding up. And the way I’m able to defend I think is holding up as well. Making it tough on the guy to score.
Do you picture yourself hearing your name in the upcoming draft?
RT: Yeah, you got to always bet on yourself. But at the end of the day, you gotta take it one day at a time. And just keep on getting better every day.
Do you have any plans in case the NBA dream doesn't come right now?
RT: To play in Israel has always been a dream of mine, regardless of what happens with the NBA. To play in Israel after the NBA would still be a dream of mine, but right now I’m trying to think positively and trying to just achieve that goal that I have right now making the NBA.
You got offers to play in the NCAA I back in the day when you were recruited, which would have been probably an easier route. Why didn't you take any of those offers?
RT: I wanted to stay true to my religion. When it came down to it, it was a tough decision. But at the end of the day, I’ve been an Orthodox Jewish my whole life and it would have been really tough to stay an Orthodox Jew and play in a Division I college. And also I wanted to set the pathway for all the Jewish kids with the same dilemma of not knowing whether or not they can succeed when coming to Yeshiva, set the pathway so they can stay true to their religion and play professional basketball.
What would it mean for you to be the first Orthodox Jewish to ever play in the NBA?
RT: It would be a dream come true to me. It’d be what I’ve worked for my entire life to do. And I think it’d be a dream come true for a lot of people that thought that this wasn’t possible, that a Jewish kid can’t make the NBA. It would prove to them that they can go and hopefully prove to them that they can go achieve their dreams, that it doesn’t matter where you come from, that as long as you put the work in you can do anything.
Is there anything in your life that you would have to change by becoming an NBA player?
RT: Not really, not right now. I treat it as a job right now and just keep on getting better every day. And it’s gonna be a job where you just gotta keep working hard to keep getting better.
When you play in the NBA, what’s your availability on days of religious observance, like Sabbath or Jewish holidays? What can you do and what you can’t do on those days?
RT: I’m not allowed to use electronics on Friday nights, all the way to sundown Saturday night. What I plan to do, and what I’ve done before, is stay by a hotel close to the gym, and walk into the gym and play. So I plan to play on Sabbath.
Traveling is not allowed on Sabbath. If there's a back-to-back Friday to Saturday, can you make that trip?
RT: I’ve done the research on it. It happens on average twice a year and at the most four times a year. So I would then talk to my team and ask them what city they want me to be in to play in for the back-to-back. And I would go stay in that city.
So you wouldn't be in with the team on Friday, and you go directly to the city where they play the next day?
RT: Or vice versa. If they want me to play the Friday game, I’ll be at the Friday game.
In the NBA, as a trailblazer, you may have the chance to teach millions of NBA fans about your religion. Is that much more pressure for you or something you take happily?
RT: I take it happily but I think the pressure is a good thing. I view pressure as being able to prove things to people, to be able to inspire them, and this is a dream come true for me. I love to be able to inspire that way.
You’re from Los Angeles. Do you have any idols that you want to emulate when you step on the court?
RT: There are a lot of people that I watched growing up and I try to emulate after but I would say the mentality would be Kobe’s, that work ethic. What do you do when nobody’s watching and just outworking everybody. And that’s what I will do. That’s what I plan to do.