3. Cape Verde
Speaking of Cape Verde, all the elements are stacked against the smallest country to ever make the FIBA World Cup. But why not the tiny African nation of roughly 500,000 people?
The team is arguably at the bottom of the pecking order in this competition, ranked 64th in the world. They’ve never played at this big of a stage before. But you need to throw out the history when talking about this country.
While the World Cup is new to Cape Verde, they have made seven appearances in AfroBasket, taking home a bronze medal in 2007. While they didn’t qualify in 2017, they were back at it in 2021, finishing fourth in the continental competition.
The most recognizable name on the roster is center Edy Tavares, who is playing for Real Madrid these days. He was a second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 2014 and has had stints with them and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The big man is the all-time blocks leader in the EuroLeague and has won the championship in that continental competition twice.
Born in Rhode Island, guard Jeff Xavier never played professionally in the United States, but did play collegiately at Manhattan and Providence. The 37-year-old is a veteran leader for the team.
Another player to watch is Ivan Almeida, who plays for Benfica in Portugal. He’s won championships in Portugal and Poland, also winning an MVP award in the latter. He’s been a consistent leader for the national team when it comes to assists and steals.
Cape Verde is small, but they can be mighty. In a group with Georgia, Slovenia, and Venezuela, don’t discount the West African nation keeping things interesting.