In early April, Suri Donatich was one of 9.9 million people who watched LSU defeat Iowa in the NCAA women’s basketball national championship.

And on Thursday, she was one of 1,581 girls, from 25 different states, who attended Kim Mulkey’s basketball camp at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center — Mulkey's second since taking over at LSU.

She has run plenty of camps before, dating to her days as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech.

But this year, fresh off her first national title at LSU, she’s never had a turnout this large.

That’s partly because the Tigers are reigning champions. But it's also because Mulkey never turns a prospective camper away, she said.

There's a place for Suri, a deaf, blonde-haired girl who plays point guard on her team of third- and fourth-graders at the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin. She’s from a family of LSU fans.

Her grandparents, Paul Winfree and Alla Tarasyuk, live in Lake Charles. They encouraged Suri to attend the camp, and so the whole family — Suri, her grandparents, her younger sister Nava and her parents, Milana and Andy — drove to Baton Rouge to watch her play on the floor of the PMAC.

“Coming to the camp, at first it was really overwhelming,” Suri signed through an interpreter. “There were a lot of hearing people. I’m the only deaf person here. But it’s been a good experience since.”

The camp opened Saturday for high schoolers. The sessions from Monday to Thursday separated into two groups — one for kids in grades 2-9 and another for children 3 and up. Of all the campers, only a handful may one day play college hoops. The overwhelming majority will not.

They’re here because Mulkey values accessibility, she said. Because she thinks not only about the present needs of her program, but also about the future state of LSU, and the role her team plays in the on-campus culture.

Someday, children like Suri will grow up. And Mulkey wants them to be women’s basketball fans.

“You’re not recruiting student-athletes in our camps,” Mulkey said. “You’re recruiting future LSU students. And if we can make a lasting impression on them at this age, I’ll be curious to see how many of these kids end up being LSU students someday. Or their parents and grandparents may buy season tickets now.”

Suri and her family attended LSU’s 85-72 win over Tulane on Dec. 4 in New Orleans. After the game, they stayed to meet Mulkey and Angel Reese, who posed for photos with them. From there, the Donatiches “fell in love,” they said — with the coach, the player and the program.

They watched the Tigers run through the rest of their season, losing only two of their remaining 25 games en route to Dallas for the Final Four. Suri’s mother, Milana, grew fond of Reese, she said — partly for her game, partly for her personality, but mostly because she, like Reese, has roots in Maryland, where the star forward grew up and started her collegiate career.

Alla, Suri’s grandmother, clung mostly to Mulkey’s glamorous outfits, her sequined jackets and sparkly shoes.

“I really want this to encourage other deaf kids, other hearing parents with children,” she said, “to involve them in the hearing world all across the state.”

That’s part of the reason the family brought Suri to the basketball camp — to give her more exposure to hearing people. But they also wanted to spend more time with Mulkey, her coaches and the players. On the last three nights before the camp, Suri re-watched the national championship game, said her father Andy, who coaches her basketball team.

“Every time we watch it,” he said, “we learn something new.”

So Suri took those lessons into camp the next day, where she learned shooting fundamentals: how to keep her feet balanced, her eyes on the rim, her elbow straight and her follow-through smooth.

According to the odds, she's not likely to show off those skills on a college team someday. That’s not the goal of Mulkey and her camp. But it won’t stop Suri and her mother from imagining a life as more than a spectator.

“One day you’re gonna do the same thing,” Milana told her. “You’re gonna be in the national championship.”