NEW YORK - Four years after electing to spurn Division I scholarship offers to play DIII ball at Yeshiva University in Washington Heights, 6-foot-7 combo guard Ryan Turell finished his junior season as the leading scorer of the Maccabees for the third year in a row, on the team with the longest active win streak at any level of men's hoops (the second-longest in DIII history), owner of the school's single-season scoring record, recipient of too many player-of-the-year and all-American honors to list and, more recently, an object of interest for NBA scouts.
"With how hard he works, I gotta say I'm not surprised," head coach Elliot Steinmetz said.
Steinmetz and his staff have heard directly from a couple of NBA teams and some scouting services inquiring about Turell.
"It's a blessing and it's truly humbling," Turell said. "And I know I wouldn't have gotten to where I am without my teammates."
Turell might also thank his gene pool. His father, Brad, played at UCSB and later represented NBA all-star and former Nets coach Kiki Vandeweghe. Ryan started working with private coaches when he was 5. He averaged a triple-double at Valley Torah, attracting D1 scouts from across the country.
"I didn't want to give up my religion," Ryan said. "I knew it would be really tough for me to stay religious and go to these D1 schools."
"This is kind of what we brought him here to be," Steinmetz said, "[to be] different."
It would be different but not unprecedented for any DIII player to play in the association but Turell would be the first Orthodox Jewish player to make it to the NBA, representing not only his alma mater but also an entire faith.
"Pressure's good though," Turell said. "We like pressure out here at Yeshiva."
Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 5 NY News app. Download for FREE!
Sandy Koufax famously sat out a World Series game for Yom Kippur. At the next level, Ryan might also find himself forced to skip games and practices to observe Shabbat and other Jewish holy days.
"We'll see when that comes," he said, "if that comes, but yes."
Over the summers, Turell trains with high-level D1 and NBA players like the Lakers' Alfonzo McKinnie and UCLA's Johnny Juzang.
"I'm like a sponge," Turell said. "Everything they do, I'm trying to learn from them."
Turell understands NBA teams look for players to fill roles.
"If I'm a guy they want to shoot the ball and hit threes, I'll be that guy," he said. "If I'm a guy they want to set picks, I'll be that guy. I'll do whatever a team needs."
"I've almost never been around a guy so easy to instruct and so easy to coach," Steinmetz said.
With the DIII tournament canceled, Yeshiva's offseason started earlier this month, its record-setting win streak still intact, the script for Ryan's senior season, his last shot at a national championship, and his opportunity to further establish himself as an NBA prospect still unwritten.
"The grind starts now," Turell said.