UCLA's Aussie guard Chantel Horvat has a secret weapon -- her dad

It all came down to one question: "If there was one school that lost interest in you all of a sudden, which school would you be most disappointed about?" Within seconds, Australian native Chantel Horvat proudly proclaimed, "UCLA."

To help her make that decision, Horvat had a secret weapon: her dad.

Having played professional soccer in Australia, Croatia and England, as well as for Australia in the Olympics, Steve Horvat knew what it took to compete at the next level. But despite coming from such a strong sports background, he didn't put any pressure on his daughter. Instead, he instilled some wisdom and a competitive edge.

"My dad was amazing throughout the entire process. He really handled a lot of things for me," Horvat said. "Whenever a new school would come in contact with me during the recruiting process, he would step in."

Then just 18 years old, the 6-foot-1 guard knew that she was supposed to travel thousands of miles across the world from her hometown of Geelong, Australia, to Los Angeles to become a UCLA Bruin for the next four years of her basketball career.

"When I got asked that question during recruitment, and I immediately responded 'UCLA,' I knew that's where I was supposed to go." Horvat said. "And since coming here in 2017, it's been the most amazing experience so far. One of the best decisions I've ever made."

The answer was inside Horvat all along. But that doesn't mean the recruiting process wasn't challenging for Horvat.

The versatile guard was ranked 15th in the 2017 HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings by espnW, rated No. 3 among all guards and held the title as the highest-rated Australian, either male or female, in the 2017 recruiting rankings.

Back then, all the letters, the phone calls, the Skype sessions were a lot to handle for a teenager living almost 8,000 miles away from the United States. Not to mention that at that time, while attending the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS), Horvat lived nearly 450 miles away from her hometown.

Being away from home at AIS and maintaining a heavy workload that included basketball training, practice, workouts and high school curriculum, Horvat already felt that she was on a college schedule. With elite programs -- including UConn -- reaching out to her, Horvat felt overwhelmed and confused. Now she had to choose where she would earn a degree and play basketball for the next four years.

"It was a lot to keep up with everything on my busy schedule. I was on a college schedule, but in high school. It was pretty hectic. It felt so foreign to me and it wasn't something I knew a great deal about," Horvat recalled. "I couldn't just go and visit schools whenever I wanted. It was an interesting time."

Enter Dad and a ton of fatherly advice.

"[My dad] always just wanted me to be happy. There are so many similarities between our experiences, and he's always there to give advice and words of wisdom along the way," Horvat said. "Plus, he always motivated me, because I'm quite competitive. And, honestly, in a way, I wanted to beat him growing up. He went to AIS at 16, so I wanted to beat him and go earlier, which I did at the age of 15."

Horvat's high school and youth basketball résumé included a scholarship to AIS, being a mainstay of the Australian National Team since 2014 and playing in the SEABL league for her home team, the Geelong Supercats. Not surprisingly, Horvat had all eyes on her when she arrived in Los Angeles.

During the 2017-18 season, she played in all 35 games during her freshman campaign. Horvat scored at least one point in 25 of 35 games and ranked fifth on the team in made 3-pointers (21) and fifth in 3-pointers attempted (70).

She knew her first season as a Bruin was going to be difficult, adapting and improving her skill set for the highest level of collegiate play. And she embraced the challenge of shifting her style of play to fit into what she calls the "puzzle at UCLA."

Just as soon as Horvat started to find her place in that puzzle, she suffered a right foot stress fracture at the end of her freshman season. Playing through the pain, Horvat managed to finish out the season but started rehab and recovery right after the final game.

After months on the sidelines, Horvat was ready to get back in the game for the start of her second season. But Horvat found herself relegated to the sidelines yet again -- this time because of a severe knee injury.

In December, Horvat got back onto the court, finally feeling fully recovered. She played nine games with the Bruins but then injured her right foot again. Same injury, same problem, same sidelines. And yet Horvat's attitude has remained the same -- thanks to some words of wisdom from her secret weapon: Dad.

"Being injured, my dad has helped me through everything. He knows what it's like, so his words have helped guide me throughout the injuries and throughout my entire sporting career," Horvat said. "It's hard. The timing is horrible and devastating since I spent nine months out prior. But my dad has helped me understand that injuries happen. 'You will get through it,' he'd say."

Each day presents a new challenge and a new headache, but Horvat plans to take it all day by day, shot by shot.

If she can get through this series of injuries and come out on top, Horvat will set her sights on playing in Europe after her time with the Bruins. A dream that she's had since she first started basketball at the age of 8.

Through all the ups and downs during her first two seasons with the Bruins, Horvat remains certain about two things: her decision to play at UCLA and her unconditional love for the sport. "My heart and soul are in basketball. Always."