Stepping up: John Curtis basketball makes its Catholic League debut Tuesday at Brother Martin _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- John Curtis’ Kai Morgan shoots against University High during the Class 3A state title game in March 2015.

The John Curtis football team made its Catholic League debut against Brother Martin a little more than three months ago.

The boys basketball team gets its turn Tuesday night, also against Brother Martin, in the District 9-5A opener for both teams.

Curtis coach Mike Krajcer is looking forward to the opportunity as his team, which reached the Class 3A final last season, makes the leap up to 5A.

“It’s a challenge, but it will be a fun type of challenge,” Krajcer said. “Preparing is always difficult, whether it’s 5A, 2A or 1A. We were in the district with Riverside and Newman back when we were in 2A, and that was just as good as any 5A league at the time. But the Catholic League is a special league. That’s why it’s called the Catholic League. It’s the only district in the state that has its own name.”

The Curtis-Brother Martin game is one of three Catholic League games on the slate Tuesday. Shaw also plays at Rummel and Holy Cross plays at St. Augustine. Jesuit, the other District 9-5A member, plays De La Salle in a nondistrict game.

“I think Curtis coming in is good for the league,” Brother Martin coach Chris Biehl said. “Coach Krajcer has himself a state championship ring. Curtis is known for its football, but for whatever reason their basketball slips under the radar — and it shouldn’t because they’ve won a state championship. They are year in and year out going to have good athletes, and they are going to be well-coached.”

Curtis’ arrival came last spring, when the school decided to play up.

“It was the best decision for the school to jump into a prestigious league like the Catholic League,” Krajcer said. “You always want to play the best competition. It was an across-the-board situation where all the coaches felt it was best for our programs.”

Based on the predistrict schedule, there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut favorite this year. The highest-ranked Catholic League team in the LHSAA’s unofficial Class 5A power rankings is St. Augustine; the Purple Knights are ranked No. 21.

“St. Aug has been on the top of the pedestal and everybody is trying to knock them off. But until someone does, they are the team to beat,” Biehl said.

Rummel (No. 28) and Brother Martin (No. 29) are the next highest-ranked teams.

So it could be a parity-filled year.

“It’s going to be like that,” Krajcer said. “St. Aug, Brother Martin and Jesuit are perennially the top teams in the league. Rummel has played well this year. You have four of five teams that are going to be in the mix.”

Krajcer is hoping his Patriots can be in the mix despite losing seven seniors from last year’s squad.

Shawn Anderson is the lone senior starter for the Patriots. He is joined in the lineup by juniors Kai Morgan, Ryghe Lyons and K.J. Hurst and sophomore Dawson Crosby.

Garret Wallow and Willie Allen, standouts on the football team, are key reserves. Wallow is nursing a high ankle sprain and is likely out for two weeks.

“This is our growing year for basketball,” Krajcer said. “We are going to grow as we get better.”