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Entering draft, Yeshiva U basketballer looks to become first Orthodox Jew in NBA

Ryan Turell, who led the NCAA in scoring this season and helped lead the Jewish school to a No. 1 DIII ranking, tells ESPN he wants to go pro, will keep wearing kippa on hardwood

Yeshiva guard Ryan Turell (11) shoots over Worcester Polytechnic Institute forward Jake Wisniewski (4) during the second half of an NCAA DIII college basketball game that allowed no spectators on March 6, 2020, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)
Yeshiva guard Ryan Turell (11) shoots over Worcester Polytechnic Institute forward Jake Wisniewski (4) during the second half of an NCAA DIII college basketball game that allowed no spectators on March 6, 2020, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

New York Jewish Week — Yeshiva University basketball star Ryan Turell wants to be the first Orthodox Jewish player in the National Basketball Association, and he has taken the first step toward that goal: entering the NBA draft.

The 22-year-old Los Angeles native will forgo his final year of college eligibility and enter the 2022 draft this summer, ESPN reported on Tuesday.

“Being the first Orthodox Jew in the NBA would mean the world to me, and a dream come true, God willing,” Turell told ESPN. “But, just as importantly, it would mean the world to others that never saw this as a possibility.”

The 6-foot-7 guard wears a yarmulke when he plays, and said he plans to continue doing so when he plays professionally.

Turell was the leading scorer in the NCAA across all divisions this season, averaging 27.1 points per game. He shot 59% overall, and an impressive 47% from three-point range.

That earned Turell his second consecutive Skyline Conference Player of the Year award and helped him lead the YU Maccabees to a 25-4 record, a second straight conference championship and a No. 1 national DIII ranking.

Yeshiva also extended a multiyear winning streak to 50 games, garnering national attention along the way, including from NBA teams.

“I know NBA teams came to see me,” Turell said. “My coach would tell me after each game, especially toward the end of the season. Quite a few NBA teams came to watch.”

The team was eliminated in the first round of the Division III NCAA tournament earlier this month.

Turell’s chances in the draft are unclear. A total of 60 players are selected in two rounds — considerably fewer than in other professional sports leagues. ESPN currently projects that he will not be drafted.

“My full intention is to play professional basketball next year,” Turell said.

The NBA draft will be held June 23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

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