By: Mitch Goulson  | 

Ryan Turell: The Driving Force Behind the Macs’ Historic 22 Game Win Streak

Coming off a historic freshman season that saw him average 20.1 points per game (PPG) on a remarkable 56% shooting and take home the 2018-19 Skyline Conference Rookie of the Year honors, Ryan Turell (SSSB ‘22) is leading the Macs to even greater heights in 2020. As of the time of publication, the Macs have won 22 straight games and vaulted themselves to a national ranking of 21st in the Division III standings.

“It’s cool to be recognized,” Turell said of the team’s national ranking, “but at the end of the day, it’s not a Skyline Championship or an NCAA tourney win. It’s great, but the job ain’t done yet.”

Asked if he expected the team to be so successful, Turell said “Yeah. When I skipped a year in Israel to come to YU early, I knew it would take a year for us to really gel together. We have great chemistry and we’re playing really well right now.”

To improve his game over the summer, Turell woke up at 8 a.m. daily and trained three times a day. He also worked out with and played against D-I and overseas players. 

His rigorous summer routine allowed Turell to become a more efficient player, as his averages in points and rebounds have risen by nearly four (from 20.1 to 23.5 ppg) and two (from 5.0 to 6.7 rpg) respectively from last season, even as his minutes and field goal attempts have remained identical to last season’s (33 and 14 per game, respectively). 

The team’s 22nd straight win, a home tilt against rival Farmingdale State, saw Turell surpass 1,000 points for his career. Turell gave credit to his teammates for reaching the milestone. “It’s a product of the system and the type of guys we have on the team,” he remarked. “They don’t care who’s scoring that night, they just care about winning. We’re chasing letters, not numbers. It’s all about the W and it doesn’t matter how we get there.”

Turell described Coach Steinmetz’s impact on his game, saying Steinmetz has “helped me stay patient and made sure I don’t try to force anything. He makes sure I play within the offense and that’s helped me become a much better player.”

Coach Steinmetz’s motion offense, simple yet crippling to opposing defenses, has allowed the offense to thrive, as it does not force-feed anyone the ball, thus frequently yielding easy baskets. This balanced approach on offense has been a critical part of the Macs’ historic winning streak. 

“Usually, teams revolve their offense around the player with the ball in his hands, but we try to take the action away from the ball by setting lots of off-ball screens,” Turell described as a reason for the success of the offensive scheme. “Because everyone on our team is a good passer, the guys that defenses need to pay attention to are the ones that are away from the ball.” 

A 6’7” unicorn with an efficient all-around game, Turell is used to commanding extra attention from defenders, but the style of the Macs’ offense allows anyone with the ball in their hands to find the open man when the defense over-commits. No play exemplifies this more than at the end of the Sarah Lawrence game on Jan. 28.

With under 20 seconds left and the Macs down by one in the Gryphons’ hostile home court, Turell drove to his left and was immediately swarmed by three defenders. Instead of hesitating, however, Turell calmly found the open man, forward Gabe Leifer (SSSB ‘21), wide open in the left corner. Leifer coolly drained the game-winner over his defender’s outstretched arm with six seconds left.

“I told Gabe [Leifer] earlier in the game, ‘If it’s close at the end, it’s gonna come down to either me or you,” recalled Turell. “I had the ball at the top of the key and picked a spot to try a pull-up jump shot. I saw Gabe leak out and his man stay near me. So I pump-faked, stepped through, and found Gabe open in the corner.”

Of Leifer, Turell said “He’s an amazing player. Scoring isn’t even his best trait but he still broke 1,000 points for his college career. He’s also a great passer and the best rebounder I’ve ever seen. Sometimes, it’ll seem like he’s having a bad night, but when you look at the stat sheet, he’ll have 30 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists.”

One of Leifer’s several signature games came in a big win over Manhattanville on Feb. 1. The 6’5” power forward tallied a monster double-double, scoring 24 points, grabbing 16 rebounds, and distributing four assists. Leifer showed his prowess on defense in this one as well, adding a combined 5 steals plus blocks.

When asked if there was one glaring difference between the 2019 and 2020 teams, Turell immediately responded “Ofek [Reef]. Having Ofek has been a huge upgrade off the bench this season.” Asked to name any specific players who have shown improvement over the season, Turell named “Caleb [Milobsky] and Eitan [Halpert]. They’ve been balling out.”

Milobsky recently scored a career-high 19 points on a road trip to Massachusetts at Williams College in a nail-biter. As a 6’6” big man, Milobsky’s accuracy from deep was a delightful surprise; in addition to knocking down 77% of his attempts from the field, Milobsky shot an otherworldly 83% from beyond the three-point range. 

Turell described that game as “the most exciting” of the season. “It was a pretty big game because that solidified the win streak [the team’s 18th win in a row, breaking the school-record 17 game win streak of last season],” he remarked. “It was against a really good team that has multiple wins against ranked opponents. And since they're usually the ranked team when we play each other, it was really cool to play a game with those roles reversed.”

It has been approximately one year since Farmingdale State snapped the Maccabees’ then-17 game win streak. A game-tying three by then-senior guard Matthew Graham and game-winning layup by current senior forward Jermaine Fraser with one second remaining gave FSC a thrilling 80-78 victory. 

When asked if he remembered that game, Turell replied “Of course I remember that game. They hit a really nice shot to tie it up, then after we turned it over, they hit a layup to win the game. We just didn’t get the job done.”

The Macs have not been perfect this season, as their 22 game win streak may suggest. Turell noted a few things that the team can improve on. “Offensively, we’re probably the best team in the country, and there’s no doubt in my mind we can score with anyone. But are we able to play tough, hard-nosed defense for an entire game? That’s what wins games in the Skyline playoffs and the NCAA tournament. If we can do that, there’s no team that can beat us.”

Turell’s family is often the loudest in the bleachers, aiding Turell during the team’s games. Jack (SSSB ‘17), Ryan’s older brother, attends all his games and can be seen enthusiastically jumping up and down on the sidelines for all of Ryan’s scores, from tough outside shots to uncontested layups. Their parents, Brad and Laurel, frequently fly out from Los Angeles to watch his games as well. 

Turell described the impact of his family’s presence on his play. “My mom and Jack definitely get the crowd going, they’re the team’s biggest fans and they make the game more exciting,” he said. “My dad always gives me tips during the game, whether it’s getting more lift on my shot, driving to the basket, or getting to the foul line. And knowing that my Bubbie, Zaidy, and Uncle Harvey always tune into my games is a really great feeling.”

With starters Simcha Halpert (SSSB ‘20) and Dani Katz (SSSB ‘20) set to graduate at the end of the 2020 season, Turell will soon be required to improve further on his impressive numbers if the Macs expect to extend their record-breaking play into next season. The dedication he has already shown to consistently improving his game makes it safe to expect he will be up to the task. 

Photo Caption: Ryan Turell
Photo Credit:
Yeshiva Athletics