BULLDOG TRIP

Schedule for Citadel basketball’s trip to Canada:

7 p.m. Monday -- at University of Windsor (Windsor, Ontario)

7 p.m. Tuesday -- at University of Windsor

7 p.m. Wednesday -- at Fanshawe College (London, Ontario)

With most college basketball teams still six weeks away from the official start of preseason practice, The Citadel is getting a head start on the season with a three-game, five-day trip to Canada.

The international trip, which begins today with a game at the University of Windsor in Ontario, gave the Bulldogs 10 early practice sessions in addition to the three games. Those are invaluable, said coach Chuck Driesell, who is entering his fourth season at The Citadel.

“It’s been outstanding for us, really, really good,” said Driesell, whose club is coming off an 8-22 season. “The guys aren’t in class yet and don’t have the obligations they would normally have. So it’s been really fun to just focus on basketball and team togetherness and leadership and things like that.”

Driesell has taken the opportunity to bring in guest speakers such as Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, former NBA star Bobby Jones and ex-Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry to speak with his players. The Bulldogs also took a trip to Fort Jackson in Columbia for a day of training and team-building.

On the court, the Bulldogs’ four incoming freshman have been able to get on the court early to learn the system and bond with returning veterans.

“Our returners are further along offensively and defensively, and we’ve been working hard on our defense,” he said. “And our freshmen, they’ve been able to try to catch up with our returners, so it’s been great.”

The freshmen — guard Warren Sledge, forward Brian White and big men Tom Koopman and Nate Bowser — are likely to play significant minutes on the trip, and perhaps this season, if the health of veteran forwards C.J. Bray and P.J. Horgan does not improve.

Neither player will make the trip. Bray, a 6-7 redshirt sophomore from James Island, sat out last season with ankle issues. Surgery fixed those, but now he’s suffering from nerve problems in his shoulder. Horgan, a 6-8 junior, emerged last year to average 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. But he’s still on the mend from back pain he endured last season.

“We’re hoping C.J. can play this season, but that’s still up in the air,” Driesell said. “P.J., we’re hoping he will be cleared at the beginning of the month (September). We don’t want him to re-injure that back.”

The Bulldogs will play the Windsor Lancers today and Tuesday before taking on Fanshawe College in London, Ontario, on Wednesday.

Windsor competes in Ontario University Athletics and made the Final Four of its division last year.

Windsor played SWAC member Southern University last Wednesday, losing by 76-71 in double overtime. The Lancers played Marshall University on Saturday, losing by 86-80 to former College of Charleston coach Tom Herrion’s team.

Fanshawe, meanwhile, lost to Southern by 91-49 in an exhibition game on Friday. The Falcons play in the Ontario College Athletic Association and were 14-6 last season.