Before opening their 13th annual tournament, Capital Classic founder Bill Ardito sat down with us for a Q&A.

Next week, the 13th annual Capital Classic will tip-off matching up some of the state’s top-flight middle school basketball teams, many of which are filled with budding young players who may move on to become the future of the high school game and beyond in Delaware.

The annual middle school basketball showcase features 16 boys and girls basketball teams from around the state, broken down into two sets of four bracketed divisions.

This year’s tournament opens with one girls matchup Friday afternoon when Gauger-Cobb (5-0) host Caravel Academy (4-0) at 3:30 p.m. in a battle of unbeaten teams.

The Capital Classic resumes play on Mon. Feb. 12 with the first of four-straight days of pool play at several venues including Dover Central Middle School, Mariner Middle School and Woodbridge Middle School before the tournament wraps up on Saturday and Sunday at Lake Forest High School.

We sat down with the tournament’s founder, Bill Ardito, to talk about what it takes to put on such a tournament every year and what it means to the sport of basketball within the state.

Q: Obviously the tournament has grown a lot over the years, what does it take to put on this kind of event each year?

A: There’s a couple months of planning, two months prior to the start of things and maybe a month afterwards we’re still getting stuff situated. It’s a couple of months of full-time planning getting the program together, getting the teams and scheduling and sponsors going, posters, it’s a lot.

Q: It’s a lot of work to put on this event, what drives you to keep it going?

A: The kids really get excited about it, it kind of makes these kids stars for a weekend, no matter who they are. Also, the fact that people say it’s a quality event, it is gratifying. I tried to turn it over, to pass the torch, but I keep going. Part of the fear is making sure it’s done right. But there’s so many people involved, players, coaches, athletic directors, staff, scorekeepers and when we get down to the last couple of days it’s exciting to see everyone happy playing in front of their families.

Q: There’s never a shortage of talent at the tournament, but which teams in the tournament this season have caught your eye?

A: This might be the strongest, top-heavy, year in the boys bracket. Bayard and Shue-Medill, they’re both undefeated, Woodbridge says they have their best team ever, Millsboro says they’re having their best year, it’ll be Beacon’s first time in the A Bracket. There’s three or four teams that will be undefeated until they play each other in the Cap Classic. The Dover Girls, they’re beating people by 30 points some games, keeping the press on, they’re definitely one of the teams to beat.

Q: A lot of players who’ve starred at the Cap Classic have gone on to have standout high school careers, how rewarding is that to see and what does that say about what the tournament means to basketball in the state?

A: It all adds up, it’s definitely gratifying to see guys in the Cap Classic do well in high school and move onto college in some cases. Everyone plays a part, the tournament makes players more confident by playing in a format like that.