The legend of Valley Torah High School Jewish hoops hero Ryan Turell continues to grow.
After hitting the 40-point mark several times in this, his senior season, the 6-foot-6 combo guard dropped 60 points last month in a victory over Lancaster Baptist, setting the Jewish Hoops America single-game record. He’s also easily on pace to eclipse the Jewish Hoops America single-season scoring record.
Turell, 18, the nation’s top-ranked Jewish player on the top-ranked Jewish high school team, and one of Southern California’s most outstanding players, is known for making baskets. Now, he’s making history.
He has become only the third yeshiva prep star to receive a coveted McDonald’s All-American Games nomination in the past 41 years. Out of roughly 100,000 boys and girls high school players nationwide, only 700 make the list. Turell was one of 30 boys in California to make the cut.
“To be nominated is a huge honor, a dream come true and I am blessed and thankful to have received it,” Turell said. “It definitely validates the hard work, time and passion I have put into the game and makes me want to push myself even harder.”
“This is the type of accomplishment that will last a lifetime.” — Lior Schwartzberg
Each year, the McDonald’s committee, made up of media personnel and coaches, selects the nominees, eventually narrowing the field to 24 players — 12 boys and 12 girls — to compete in nationally televised showcase games. Past stars included Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
With his nomination, Turell joined the ranks of another Valley Torah product, Aaron Lieberman, who got the nod in 2011, and Tamir Goodman from the Talmudical Academy in Baltimore, a nominee in 2000.
“I hope it brings a sense of pride to the Jewish community in Los Angles and nationally, knowing that a kid who wraps tefillin every day and plays with a yarmulke can be recognized as one of the top high school players in the country,” Turell said.
Beinish Kaplan has been coaching Jewish youth teams in the American Roundball Corp. (ARC), one of the city’s premier leagues, for more than 20 years. He said it’s hard to express how rare it is for a player of Turell’s caliber to emerge from an Orthodox Jewish school like Valley Torah, which has a student body of 135, because of limitations like rigorous academics and Torah study.
“In a word, this is just so very unusual,” said Kaplan, who coached Turell before his Valley Torah career.
Kaplan added that many of his ARC players look up to Turell and attend Valley Torah games when they can.
“I tell all my boys that from this ramshackle gymnasium, you can make something of yourself. Ryan Turell came out of here. If Ryan Turrell came out of here, you can do the same thing. All you have to do is want it.”
Turell, like his yeshiva predecessors Lieberman and Goodman, didn’t make the final cut when rosters were announced on Jan. 16. However, Valley Torah coach Lior Schwartzberg said the nomination itself is the true honor.
“This is the type of accomplishment that will last a lifetime,” he said. “Nobody can take this from him. He is a top-30 player in the state. He is one of the best players in the country. This is off the charts. How many players can say that in their lifetime? Not just Jewish players — any player at any level.”
Turell currently is weighing Division I offers from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Air Force Academy, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Sacramento and Southern Utah University. Brad Turell, Ryan’s father, who played Division I basketball at UC Santa Barbara, said his son plans to make a decision at the end of his senior season in March.