Darius Defoe will go from friend to foe — as soon as Leicester dangerman Duke Shelton steps out on court tonight.

The former team-mates face off in a ‘win or bust’ Trophy eliminator on Tyneside as Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles tackle the Riders for a place in this month’s Final Fours.

And Defoe insists there’ll be no love lost between two fierce competitors despite a friendship that stretches back three years.

“On a personal note I’m really happy for Duke and it’s great to see him back in the British Basketball League,” said Newcastle’s most decorated player.

“When I heard he was going to Leicester I called him, spoke to him and wished him all the best. Then I checked the fixture list!

“Duke’s a big character and we know we have to keep him quiet.

“When we cross those four lines we’re no longer friends. I’ll see him after the game.”

That Newcastle have played themselves to within a win of a semi-final berth is some achievement given the crippling injury list blighting the men in black.

But Defoe revealed the Eagles were never going pass up on an opportunity to chase another title — however challenging things became off court.

“From day one the mentality within this group has been to approach every competition as silverware we can win,” added a player with 27 medals to his name.

“People might have looked at the injuries and thought we were looking at the Trophy as some kind of free hit. Not at all.

“We always wanted to get to Birmingham for the Final Fours weekend and take it from there. Nothing’s changed.

“Even after the London defeat in the first group game we still knew we had enough talent on this team to keep that target in sight.

“We’re a better team than what we’ve shown at times this season. The Trophy’s been an opportunity to show that.

“Winning the Trophy in 2005 was the start of what made this club great and it’s a special competition for everyone associated with the Eagles.

“It would mean a lot to me if we could get back to the final but first we need to take care of business against Leicester.”

Shelton and the Riders stand in Defoe’s way with Rob Paternostro’s men — like the Eagles — viewing the Trophy as a chance to reignite an inconsistent campaign.

And the Duke is hoping to feed off a febrile Vertu Motors Arena atmosphere on his long-awaited return to the North East.

“I’m very excited for the game and it should be a lot of fun between two rivals,” he said.

“There’s always a great atmosphere in Newcastle and I expect that to be even better on Friday as there’s a lot on the line.

“It’s the type of occasion I like to play in and I’m looking forward to getting out there on the floor.

“I have a lot of good memories of my time with the Eagles and want nothing but the best for that team.

“It was a difficult time for the club trying to build a new team and to be successful last season.

”But I had a lot of fun with coach Steutel, Darius and the guys and I learnt a lot during my time there.

“I don’t know what kind of reception I’ll get from the fans. It’s obviously a big game for both teams – we really want to win and their fans want the same.

“But whether it’s a positive reception I get or not, it’s just basketball at the end of the day and I’ll be going out there to do what I do.”

Defoe is predicting fireworks in front of another full house live on Sky Sports.

“It’s an exciting game,” he added. “It’s going to be one hell of a night and everyone’s looking forward to it. I know I am.

“We have to control the things we know we can control and come away with the win some way, somehow.”

Visit www.boxoffice.newcastle-eagles.com for remaining tickets ahead of tonight’s 7.45pm tip-off.