CAMDEN, NJ ( -- Sixers' former first-overall pick Ben Simmons came onto the team in quite a unique situation. As Simmons became one of the rewards from the dreadful 'process' the Sixers have taken on, he was immediately viewed as the guy who was supposed to take the team to the promise land.

His story got off to a rough start, though, as Simmons suffered a foot injury, which sidelined him for his entire first season. The following year was nothing short of promising, though, as Simmons helped lead the Sixers to the playoffs and even won the race for Rookie of the Year by a landslide. Still, Simmons wasn't perfect.

Now that the veteran guard is gearing up for his third season, he has to do a lot more than what he's been doing. And no, I'm not talking about shooting three's. While Simmons did need to improve his shooting this summer, the most crucial factor he's been working on is becoming a vocal leader on and off the court.

During the second day of Sixers' training camp in Camden, New Jersey, something stood out. As the team ran a full-court scrimmage, one player seemed more outspoken on the floor than others. That player happened to be one of the Sixers' newest leaders, Ben Simmons. Now, Simmons is far from a new guy within Philly's locker room. But this isn't the same 'cocky kid' who may be a bit full of himself because of where he was drafted.

This is a motivated player who apparently "fell in love with the game of basketball" once again. Dubbed as a 'gym rat' this offseason, Simmons seems to be on the same page with his head coach, Brett Brown, who stated that Philly is coming for the first seed this season in the Eastern Conference. What changed for Simmons from last year up until now?

"Time and maturity." That's what helped Simmons grow into his newfound role so far this offseason. "I've been in the league for a little bit now, so I'm starting to understand it," Simmons said following day three of training camp on Thursday. "Just being around a lot of older guys during the offseason and learning from them. We have a lot of guys who are just coming into the league, so somebody has to do it."

Before, veterans such as T.J. McConnell, JJ Redick, and even Jimmy Butler were recognized as the outspoken leaders within the locker room and on the court. This season though, those three guys are out. Nobody approached Simmons and told him to act as a leader. Instead, he naturally adapted to the role.

"When I came into the league, I didn't have too many vets around," Simmons says. "It was a younger team with less experienced guys. [Now I can] teach them from my mistakes, and that expedites the transition for them." While other new leaders like Al Horford will still chip in with teaching points, the former Celtic seems a bit relieved he doesn't have to entirely take over as noticed Simmons has been stepping up and doing the same.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_


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