Orthodox basketball star Ryan Turell to join Israel’s top league
Ryan Turell played two seasons with the Motor City Cruise in the NBA’s G League. (Photo: Courtesy of Motor City Cruise)

By Jacob Gurvis
July 3, 2024

(JTA) — Orthodox basketball player Ryan Turell has signed with Ironi Ness Ziona in the Israeli Basketball Premier League, the country’s top tier of professional basketball.

Turell, who was the top scorer in the NCAA in his senior year at Yeshiva University, made history in 2022 by becoming the first Orthodox Jewish player to appear in the NBA’s minor G league. He played two seasons for the Motor City Cruise, which is affiliated with the Detroit Pistons.

Turell did not receive much playing time in Detroit but, as he did in college, attracted scores of Orthodox fans, both in Detroit and on the road. A highlight came when he returned to New York on Purim last year.

Now, Turell is fulfilling another goal of his: to play professional basketball in Israel.

“I’m very excited and honored to be a part of Ironi Ness Ziona, and can’t wait to start playing!” Turell said in a press release from the team. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play in Israel, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do it with Ness Ziona. I can’t wait to meet all of the fans, it’s an amazing feeling.”

Turell played in 54 games for the Cruise, averaging 14.2 and 11.9 minutes per game respectively in his two seasons, with 4.4 points per game overall and a strong three-point shooting percentage of .355. The 6-foot-7 forward’s best game with the team was also his last: A 34-point, six-rebound breakout performance on March 23.

He will join a middling team in Israel’s popular league. Ness Ziona, located in central Israel south of Tel Aviv, finished the 2023-2024 regular season with a losing record but advanced to the playoffs, where the team made it to the quarterfinals. The 2024-2025 season begins in October.

Brad Turell, Ryan’s father, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the move to Israel does not rule out a possible return to the G League — or even the NBA, a longtime dream of Turell’s — in the future. He said his son is keeping “all options open.”

“He certainly hasn’t given up on his dream and goal to be the first Orthodox Jew to make the NBA,” Brad Turell said.

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