WHEN LA SALLE retires Larry Cannon's No. 20 jersey at halftime of its Dec. 6 game with Villanova at the Palestra and eventually hangs it next to the university's other four retired men's jerseys at Gola Arena, you could make a pretty good case that La Salle's five could play with any school's five.

"The retirement of my La Salle uniform number is particularly meaningful," Cannon said in a statement released Friday by the university. "I'm a born and raised Philadelphian and Big 5 basketball has always been a major influence on the way I played the game. I can't find the words to express how proud I feel to be joining the elite company of Tom Gola, Ken Durrett, Lionel Simmons and Michael Brooks."

Cannon and Durrett were the stars of the great 1968-69 La Salle team coached by Gola that finished 23-1 and ranked No. 2, but was unable to play in the postseason because of the sins of a previous coaching regime.

"Larry was a great player on arguably the greatest team in La Salle and Big 5 basketball history," interim athletic director Bill Bradshaw said. "He was an exceptional talent . . . The honor is very well deserved."

When, on the 40th anniversary of the Big 5, the Daily News chose an all-time team, Cannon was one of the 10 chosen, along with Durrett, Brooks and Simmons. Gola's college career predated the Big 5.

Cannon mastered every aspect of the game, but it was his passing that Big 5 fans will never forget. He averaged 19.0 points and 9.0 rebounds over his final two La Salle seasons before lighting up the ABA, averaging 26.6 points in one season for Denver.

@DickJerardi