Three years of hard work.
Down the drain.
It happened when prized recruit Josh Selby said "Kansas" rather than "Tennessee" during Saturday night's Jordan Brand All-Star game at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Assistant coach Steve Forbes, who has spent the past three years as Selby's primary recruiter for UT, got the bad news via a text message from Selby's mother before the game.
"I'm not gonna lie to you, it hurt,'' Forbes said. "That was a three-year deal, and it was a dogfight.
"But you can't take it personal, you just move on, and we're going to be back out recruiting the next few days.''
Forbes has been through battles against big-time schools before with the Vols, and before that, as an assistant coach to Billy Gillispie at Texas A&M.
For every Josh Selby, there's a Scotty Hopson, who was once a Mississippi State commitment and was headed to visit Texas before UT convinced him to commit.
"I was flip-flopping big-time those last few days,'' said Hopson, who also was recruited by Louisville. "It's tough; as a player you want to get it over with, but you also want to be really careful to make the right decision.''
For McDonald's All-American players like Hopson, new UT signee Tobias Harris and Selby - gifted athletes with obvious abilities - it's considered a given they will one day play in the NBA.
The school becomes a matter of preference, or comfort, or convenience or maybe relationships.
The ultimate determining factor is different from player to player, and seldom obvious.
"You never know for sure what it is,'' Forbes said. "But in the case of Josh, he did what he felt he had to do, and I'll always have a good relationship with him and his family.''
Selby, a guard from Lake Clifton High School in Baltimore, had made a verbal commitment to attend Tennessee in September of 2008, prior to his junior season. He attended the Vols' elite camp two consecutive summers and visited during UT's win over South Carolina.
But last summer, while at the LeBron James skills camp in Ohio, Selby de-committed.
Many suspected the influence of Nike was at work, and thought Kentucky would enter the recruiting picture.
But Selby never set foot on the Wildcats' campus for a visit, and Kentucky wasn't a finalist for his services.
Kansas, the school Selby chose, is an adidas school, like Tennessee.
It serves as no consolation to Forbes, who had his guts ripped out in similar fashion two years ago with Elliot Williams. The Vols lost Williams to Duke after a spirited recruiting battle.
"When you are recruiting great players, you're going to recruit against great schools, and we aren't going to back down,'' Forbes said. "You know that's not the way Coach (Bruce) Pearl operates. We don't back down on the court when we schedule them or play them, and we're not going to back down in recruiting.
"You get in trouble in recruiting when you settle, and I can promise you Tennessee is not going to settle.''
And why should the Vols?
Harris, the No. 1 power forward in the Class of 2010, chose Tennessee over Syracuse, Kentucky, West Virginia and Connecticut.
Two years ago, Emmanuel Negedu chose the Vols over John Calipari's Memphis team as well as Indiana and Georgia Tech.
"It's funny, you look at Josh, and then you look at Bobby Maze,'' Forbes said. "I just happened to be in Kansas City when Coach Pearl called me and told me we needed a point guard because of Ramar (Smith's) situation.
"I had four hours to drive to Hutchinson (Community College) and recruit Bobby, and convince him to make a mid-week visit.''
Forbes succeeded, and Maze committed while on his visit to UT, cancelling a trip he had set up for Kentucky.
"So we put three years in on Josh and don't get him,'' Forbes said, "and we put five days in on Bobby and got him. Well, it was a little more than five days - we had recruited Bobby prior to his original commitment to Maryland.''
Just like the visits that will happen today and Wednesday across Tennessee and into Mississippi, relationships begin, faces become familiar and schools begin to jockey for position.
As Forbes knows all too well and tells anyone who asks, "you never know what's going to happen in recruiting.''